CARY — Panther Creek got goals from striker Melvin Castro and fullback – yes, fullback – Artim Minin to score a 2-0 victory over host Cary on Wednesday night at Cooper Field.
Catamount strikers are the heart of their offense, but coach David Grant isn't afraid to move any player forward if it gives Panther Creek a chance to score. That's what happened on the Catamounts' first goal, when Minin took a pass from Albert Wu after a corner kick and dumped it in the net in the 26th minute.
"It's not really that weird, to be honest with you, because we're very aggressive," Grant said of a fullback scoring. "We want to push players forward, and any opportunities they get, you get hungry players. Fullbacks always want to get in and score.
“Every time I'll send a fullback or two in there and get an opportunity to score. It was great to see, and it will be happening a little but more now.”
An added threat from the backfield can only help Panther Creek (4-1-2, 2-0), the No. 14 team in the News & Observer rankings. The Catamounts have some speedy forwards that give them a quick-strike capability, and that was on display on Castro's goal. As Cary (1-6-1, 0-2) pressed to tie the game, Panther Creek got the ball forward to Castro, who beat Imps keeper Johannes Dietrich.
"We've got a couple quick strikers up top," Grant said. "And we've got Melvin Castro who changes the pace for us a little bit, too. It's a nice compliment there. Our two strikers in the second half really worked hard, and I think the fitness and the speed go to (Cary) a little bit in the back.
"They were coming at us a lot at the end, but we got a quick counter here and there and got some scoring opportunities, which is great to see."
Cary had plenty of scoring chances, too, but the Imps have struggled putting the ball in the net recently.
"It's funny, because we opened up the season with eight goals in the first four games," Cary coach Mike Dunphy said. "We've kind of lost our rhythm. We're getting chances, but we bounce them off the bar or something."
A play in the fifth minute was typical of Cary's night. Logan Griffith drilled a left-foot shot that bounced off the post, and then George Bournazian launched the rebound over the crossbar. The Imps continued to press, especially in the second half, but couldn't score.
Still, Cary got a boost from the return from a concussion of Eruby Toledo de Jesus, who scored three of the team's first eight goals this season.
"It was good to get him back in the flow," Dunphy said. "It's getting back into that flow and rhythm. It'll come. We're young, and it'll take time. We don't have a pure goal scorer. We have a lot of abilities, but they're all in different players. They'll get there. It's just a lack of experience."