It’s only one game, but Chris Roberts’ lineup juggling already is paying dividends.
The Pahrump Valley High School boys soccer coach knew replacing as much offense as he lost to graduation would require a team effort, and part of his plan was moving sophomore Christian Mott from defense to the front line.
Mott took a ball from junior midfielder Vinny DiBlasi and sent it into the corner of the goal during the 59th minute, and the Trojans held on from there for a 2-1 victory over SLAM Academy in their opening game Monday at Trojan Field.
“We switched some things around,” Roberts said. “Christian Mott is up front now, where he was in the back for us last year. We’re trying to be just a little bit more offensive-minded and trying to push the ball upfield.”
Mott is happy with the change.
“I went from playing center back last year to playing striker, my preferred position,” he said. “I played center back while I was growing up, and that’s why they played me back there. But I prefer to be up top.”
Mott gave much of the credit for his go-ahead goal to junior midfielder Vinny DiBlasi, whose run through the Bulls’ defense set up the score.
“Vinny got the ball and started dribbling,” Mott remembered. “He took on like three guys and took the defender with him, making me clear in space. I was ran into space and was calling for the ball. He played it to me, and I first-time finished it with my left foot into the bottom left corner, right under the goalkeeper.”
Roberts noted that DiBlasi did a lot more than set up Mott’s goal.
“I think Vinny DiBlasi had a really good game,” the third-year coach said. “He controlled the middle. I was really happy with his performance. He was tough defensively and went after it offensively.”
Mott played a role in the Trojans’ first goal, which was a matter of serendipity as much as anything else.
“It was a throw in, and there was a deflection,” senior Abraham Alvarez said. “Mott headed it into the goal, the goalie got a touch on it, and I was just there to finish it off.”
Alvarez’s goal gave the Trojans a 1-0 lead 10 minutes before halftime, and it held up until 15 minutes into the second half, when the Bulls scored on a breakaway as Roberts screamed for an offsides call.
Pahrump Valley keeper Ulises Salazar was a dead duck on that play, but otherwise he enjoyed a strong game, including a terrific save on a point-blank header 4 minutes before SLAM’s only goal.
“He was our JV keeper last year,” Roberts said of the junior. “Our starter from last year is not playing this year, which is unfortunate. But Ulises had some really good saves, and I was really happy with the way he played.”
The Trojans and Bulls are both very different teams than they were last year, with the Trojans younger and the Bulls, a third-year program that played an independent schedule two years ago, older.
“SLAM has gotten a lot better from last year,” said Roberts, whose team routed the Bulls 7-0 last fall. “It looks like they have a lot more players, so good for them.”
As for his own team, it’s a work in progress showing some positive signs.
“We are a little thin, but we’re strong,” said Roberts, who guided the Trojans to their first playoff game in a decade last season. “We keep going after the ball and getting some good positioning. We’re coming along and learning the game a little bit more. We’re really young, and I’m obviously happy with the outcome.”
His players are believers.
“I think we’re feeling great,” Alvarez said. “It’s not last year’s team, but I think this year we’ve got a pretty good team.”
“Like Abraham said, it’s not the team from last year,” Mott agreed. “But I think if we start working well as a team and keep up what we’re doing, I think we have potential to do pretty well this season.”
Pahrump Valley 6, Virgin Valley 1: On Wednesday in Mesquite, Gonzalo Gonzalez and Christian Mott each scored twice as the Trojans roared to a 4-0 halftime lead and coasted past the Bulldogs.
Abraham Alvarez scored his second goal of the season, and Pablo Castro added his first for Pahrump Valley (2-0), while Christopher Vega recorded 2 assists. Mott and Alvarez also registered assists for the Trojans.