Despite having never played striker previously, Moline senior Nelson Acosta's inexperience didn't show in Tuesday night’s 5-1 Western Big 6 Conference win over Rock Island.
Acosta scored two goals in the victory, putting Moline (8-2, 1-2 Big 6) on the board in conference after starting the year with shutout losses to Geneseo and Quincy.
Acosta said it felt great to get back in the win column a week after the loss in Quincy.
“This is the first game I feel like we really connected overall as a team,” he said. “We played some really good through balls. … That was probably our best performance so far.”
Moline controlled possession throughout much of the game at the Moline Soccer Bowl and out-shot Rocky 6-3 on goal in the win. Rock Island (2-5-1, 1-2) got its lone goal in the 44th minute when Alejandro Torres converted a free kick.
The Maroons led 3-0 at halftime behind goals from Sam Ramirez, Diego Gomez and Acosta, who added his second goal in the 57th minute. Saiheed Jah closed the scoring with a goal in the 74th minute.
Acosta said he’s been learning how to make the right runs in practice. He benefited from Moline’s passing connections as Ramirez and Isiah Gallegos each assisted his goals.
“That was definitely what we needed,” Acosta said. “This was a huge win for us in conference to move forward. It’s just one game at a time from here.”
Moline coach Rick Sanchez said his team took a step forward after making adjustments from looking at game film.
“Looking back at some of the possession stuff and the opportunities that we weren’t creating, we weren’t being dangerous in the offensive third of the field,” Sanchez said. “This past week we spent some time working on the offensive half and obviously the guys did a pretty good job today executing that and understanding what we’re looking for and trying to build a rhythm and a flow offensively.”
Rock Island coach Rudy Almanza said mistakes from his team cost it when surrendering goals. Almanza has had to adjust his roster and bring up younger guys with players out with injury or due to academics.
“They wanted it a little bit more,” Almanza said of Moline’s effort. “Their four goals were off of mistakes that we made. So that hurt.”
Almanza said his team was pressing after falling down 1-0 after 25 minutes. He added this season looks to be one of rebuilding.
“Just trying to rebuild a little bit, get rid of the negative and bring in some positive,” Almanza said. “We knew doing it that way, we were going to take some losses here and there, but definitely didn’t want to lose due to mistakes.”
Sanchez said his team has been good at possessing the ball, it just needed to find balance in its offensive attack and approach. It paid off as four different players found the net. He credited Jah and Acosta’s performance at the striker position.
“They both looked well at that spot,” Sanchez said. “Trying guys at different spots and their willingness to accept those roles was huge tonight."