"Obviously, this is a big win for our program," said Navy head coach Rich Miranda, who earned his first career Patriot League victory with the win. "It was important for us to get back on the winning track, and stay in the hunt and not get too far behind. The kids stuck to the gameplan we had all week and really executed it very well. Our defense was very sound against a very good offense. This was our biggest win of the season so far, without a doubt."
American showed early on why it is considered the league favorite, controlling play for the first 12 minutes and recording four shots to Navy's one. However, playing into a strong south wind, Navy slowly started to change the momentum, and had the game's first excellent chance to score 17 minutes into the contest. McKenzie Plank (Mountain View, Calif.) dropped a pass back to J.P. Murphy (Severna Park, Md.), who fired a low shot to the right post that beat American goalie Chris Sedlak, but slipped just wide of the net. Navy would, however, take advantage of its next opportunity. After American was called for a foul along the right flank late in the first half, Navy was awarded a direct kick. Kris Huff (Kenifield, Calif.) played the ball to Murphy, who blistered a shot towards Sedlak. The Eagles' keeper would make the original save, but couldn't corral the ball as Eric Gorden (Longwood, Fla.) one-timed the loose ball into the back of the net at the 36:17 mark for his first goal of the season and a 1-0 lead, which remained the halftime score.
American nearly tied the game up early in the second half as they were awarded a direct kick from the left flank following a Navy foul. However, sophomore goalkeeper Thomas Jenkins (Franklin, N.C.), making his first career start, made two outstanding saves to keep American off the board.
"Thomas played unbelievably well," said Miranda. "He was put in a tough situation, earning his first career start against one of the best teams in the league, and he played like he has been playing all year. He was very calm, and handled everything that was thrown at him."
Navy added an insurance goal moments later as McKenzie Plank (Mountain View, Calif.) tallied his second goal of the season in the 62nd minute. Murphy played a cross to switch the field to Plank, who beat his man and calmly slid a low roller from the left slot past a diving Sedlak for a 2-0 advantage and his second goal of the season.
That was all the Navy defense, and Jenkins, would need in earning its fifth win of the season.
"That is a very good team we beat tonight," said Miranda. "We were fortunate to be able to put away our chances and play the way we are capable of playing tonight. I have told this team that if we play our game to our abilities that we can play with anyone."
Both teams had 14 shots in the contest, while American had four corners to Navy's one. Navy had 17 fouls to American's 15. Jenkins shut out an attack that had averaged just over 19 shots a game, by making three saves, including two in the second half. The win evens the series record to 6-6-5 overall and gives Navy a 5-1-3 record all-time in Annapolis. The two-goal margin equals Navy's largest margin in the series since 1988. The Mids also improved to 9-5-1 all-time in Patriot League home openers, including a 3-0-1 record since 2002.
The Mids will be back in action this weekend with a Sunday afternoon non-conference battle with La Salle in Philadelphia. Kick-off is slated for 1:00 p.m.