NEWPORT–Matt St.Amour's penalty kick goal with 10:50 left to play in the first half was all the scoring that the Missisquoi Valley Union Thunderbirds needed, as they played the role of spoiler in the North Country boys' soccer team's home opener, winning the contest 1-0.
Although this makes two losses in a row, coach James McKenny is philosophical in his take on the situation.
"We do have somewhat of a luxury, being that it is early in the season and we can try and make some moves within the line-up and how we look on the field."
While MVU was awarded the opening possession, it was North Country being the aggressor in the first ten minutes of the half.
They sent wave after wave of attacks at the MVU goal, directing multiple balls towards Thunderbird netminder Eamon Murphy.
The moment that defined how hard the Falcons were pressing came when Kody Halikas and MVU's Alex Larose were chasing down a ball inside the visitor's 18.
Both players went for the ball and then came together in a brutal collision that left Larose motionless on the grass and Halikas on the Falcon bench with a bag of ice on his head.
Halikas was done for the match, and although shaken up, Larose stayed in the game.
This served as a momentum changer for Missisquoi, as they rallied around their teammate and went on the attack.
For the next twenty minutes the following scenario played out: MVU would come down the field, get some pressure, and Logan Fortier would gain control of the ball (making a few nice saves along the way I must add), and send the ball past mid-field with a high booming kick.
Unable to gain control of their keepers punt, North Country would unfortunately have to chase their opponents back inside their defensive zone.
Sprinkled in were several MVU players getting hurt and having to be helped off the field, which did not seem to bother their coach Jim Hubbard.
"Every time we play North Country, every time we play St. Albans it's the same type of game," said Hubbard, "We play aggressively and pace is going to be quicker than other games."
MVU's stubborn resilience resulted in a foul inside the Falcon eighteen, and put St. Amour on the line.
With Fortier ready to go, the tall midfielder glided up to the ball and sent a low shot into the left hand corner for the 1-0 lead.
Five minutes later St. Amour almost made it 2-0, but his attempt came fell short.
The final five minutes of the first belonged to North Country as St.Amour's miss woke up the team and they pressed as hard as anyone could without actually putting the ball in the net.
The second half mirrored the first, with again North Country controlling the first ten, MVU the bulk of the middle, followed by a surge by the Falcons late, something McKenny said must change.
"Ultimately it comes down to putting quality shots on the frame, and we didn't do that."
Said Co-captain Zach Tweed, ""We can compete with any team. We've played two good teams and they were both one goal games, we just need to execute on offense."
The coach even switched his goaltenders, putting Ryan Paul in net, where he had a great save late on a tough header, and putting Fortier out front in hopes of generating some scoring, but nothing came of it, and the Thunderbirds held on for the win.
The goalie switch is something that could be a regular occurrence as the Falcons search for more offense.
However, a little patience might be the order of the day as Ruffie Palin, Nate Marsh and Halikas while he was in, showed signs that they are becoming comfortable with each other, and it could be a matter of a game or two before they hit their stride and the goals start pouring in.
On Saturday, the boys took on the Cougars of Mount Mansfield and while their offense picked up, the Cougars was better and MMU rolled to the 6-3 win.
Adam Viens, Nate Marsh, and Jesse Breault each scored for North Country, as they tripled their total offensive output of their two previous games.
The boys will go under the lights on Wednesday when they host Spaulding at 6:00 on Veterans Field.