NEW BRITAIN – A second half surge wasn't enough in Innovation boys soccer's 4-1 loss to Parish Hill on Wednesday.
The Ravens allowed all four goals in the first half, before Dawood Alsafari converted a penalty kick late in the second. Innovation had the Pirates pinned in its end for most of the final frame, but Alsafari's strike was all the Ravens could muster in the contest.
“I think it just came down to heart,” Innovation coach Bryan De La Cruz said. “Right now we got a few guys back in the mix that weren't here for a few games, one of our guys just came back. Just getting everybody back in the rhythm of things and working again [is the goal].”
Cy'leek Zaimoff slotted a hat trick while Isaiah Smallhorn scored Parish Hill's fourth of the game in its high-flying first half. The victory moves the Pirates overall record to 12-1.
“Parish Hill and Aerospace are definitely the top teams we'll see,” De La Cruz said. “I think it's a good way that we ended the game, 1-0 after the half, even though they scored four in the first half.”
Zaimoff secured his first of the afternoon after maneuvering around Ravens goalkeeper Arnez Falcon for an easy tap-in early in the first.
Parish Hill's lead doubled to 2-0 on a nearly identical play from Zaimoff a few minutes later, before a hard kick just outside the box slipped through Falcon's hands for Zaimoff's hat-trick goal.
Smallhorn joined the scoring party when he raced past every Innovation defender and tucked in a shot with his left foot to push it to 4-0 Pirates.
The Ravens adjusted during the last period and put the pressure on with multiple corner kicks and direct kicks around the box. Although it took a penalty kick for Innovation to find twine, despite a great scoring chance from Waseem Alsafari a few minutes earlier that was turned aside by the Parish Hill keeper.
De La Cruz felt his team's improved defensive play in the final 45 minutes translated to more chances on the offensive side.
“Two of our defenders kind of stepped up a lot, two of our younger guys started to bring it up and I think that helped everyone get in line and work harder,” De La Cruz said.
Now 2-2-1 over their last five games, the Ravens hope to find that complete, 60-minute effort as the end of the regular season creeps closer and closer.
“First half, I just don't think they were ready,” De La Cruz said. “It was a short school day, they were out here a little early and we kind of just got stuck in that moment. Once the second half came, I think they decided, 'I'm ready to play now.' But it can't be like that, it's got to be a full game, not just half a game.”
Innovation (5-4-1) will host MLC on Thursday at 3:45 p.m.
Ryan Ames can be reached at 860-801-5094 or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.