EASTLAKE—Carley Goldberg graduated from Solon High School on May 27 and on Saturday, the Kent State signee scored her first career goal in a Women’s Premier Soccer League game, but it wasn’t enough as Croatia Juniors fell to visiting Century United, 2-1.
The Juniors displayed more cohesiveness and intensity after a 5-0 loss to Ambassadors Cleveland last Sunday.
“We saw a definite progression, no question about it,” said Croatia Juniors head coach Drago Dumbovic. “We kept the possession and were a little more calm in our buildups. I think the team responded in the second half and played really, really well; it was very exciting. They really went all out to try to even the score in that game. We have to give (United) a lot of credit. They’re a really good team. They have good chemistry but we are getting there.”
Century United also entered the game in search of its first win of the season but found a worthy challenger in the Juniors.
Landy Mertz, a member of the Atlantic-10 Conference’s All-Rookie team as a freshman at Dayton in 2019 and a current player for the Pittsburgh Panthers, broke a scoreless tie when she found an opening in the corner of the net in the 41st minute.
Century United added a second goal early in the second half when Annabel Thomas, who just completed her freshman season at the University of Akron, won a free ball off of a throw-in and tapped it past Juniors keeper Megan Biddle (Lake Erie College).
“Especially from the throw-in, that should never happen,” Dumbovic said of the breakdowns on the goals. “Now we’re chasing 2-0 instead of 1-0 and that is more difficult. I could have waited longer to go to three in the back but I think the team responded really well. A 3-4-3 isn’t easy to play but our three in the back really held it very tight. They really hustled and responded well.”
Thomas’ goal forced Dumbovic to switch into a 3-4-3 formation earlier than he would have liked, but the Juniors held the United scoreless for the final 40 minutes.
Goldberg’s goal off of an assist from Lexi Gomez (Case Western Reserve University) gave the Juniors a fighting chance.
“We love young players,” Dumbovic said. “I really don’t care, can you play or not, and she can so I have to get her in the game. She’s a really, really exciting player. We have pretty good talent but we have to build our chemistry and trust in each other and understand the runs. Chemistry isn’t easy to build. Those things take time. We’re getting there slowly but surely.”
Gomez tapped in a rebound off a Goldberg shot in the 76th minute but an offsides call eliminated the equalizer.
“We just needed that last pass, that last concentration and focus,” Dumbovic said. “We are getting to the box but we are just a little bit off. When we can take that step forward, it will be very different. We did score the goal and we were attacking more and eager to score, we just have to get into the box. Overall, I thought the second half was much, much better and something to build on for the next game.”
The Juniors (0-3) host Cleveland Ambassadors (1-1-1) on Thursday. The kick-off at Eastlake North High School is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.