Hi 27° | Lo 15°

Adelabu Delivers A Double

Hanover — Alex Adelabu hadn’t been a factor during the Dartmouth College men’s soccer team’s first three games this season. That changed Sunday, when the striker scored both goals during his team’s 2-0 nonconference defeat of Massachusetts at Burnham Field.

After straining a calf muscle days before the season opener, Adelabu didn’t start in the Big Green’s first two matches and wasn’t the same player who scored nine goals last fall. With his acceleration limited, defenders didn’t have to fear the sudden bursts of speed that can make them look foolish when marking No. 14.

“He’s a game-changer, and he did that today,” said Dartmouth coach Chad Riley. “He’s got a great change of pace, and he’s always switched on. He knows you have to score all types of goals. Sometimes it’s the beautiful ones, and sometimes it’s catching the defense sleeping and you put in a rebound.”

Facing a winless Minuteman squad that includes 15 freshmen on a 26-player roster, Dartmouth held the run of play but couldn’t score until two minutes before halftime. Midfielder Colin Heffron lofted a high pass up the left wing, one which Adelabu ran under and pulled down with his left foot while swerving away from defender Matt Pease, who was on his outside hip.

Sprinting into the box, Adelabu sliced past approaching defender Matt Keys on his right and beat goalkeeper Nick Ruiz for his first goal of the season.

“I just had to keep composed and finish it,” said Adelabu, a Kimball Union Academy graduate. “In the other games, I was playing too much with my back to the goal. Then I got the ball and I always had to turn, and that hurt my leg. Today, I played more direct, facing the goal. The guys helped me a lot today, helping to find me in the right positions.”

Adelabu’s second tally, 12 minutes after halftime, came off a long punt from Dartmouth goalkeeper James Hickok. The ball bounced on Stefan Defregger’s head and rolled all the way to the top of the Minutemen’s box, where Adelabu threw a nifty fake on Ruiz to throw the netminder off-balance and out of the play. Adelabu scored into an empty cage.

“I was going to touch the ball, but then I just faked it with my leg and he went for that,” Adelabu said. “The ball did all the work.”

Said Heffron: “It’s nice to have Alex back. He’s very strong on the ball, and his pace adds another dynamic in our offense. The defense focuses on him, which opens it up for other people.”

Heffron said Dartmouth (2-0-2) is starting to fire on all cylinders, stringing together passes, anticipating teammates’s runs and being able to “play beautiful soccer.” Part of that development is thanks to the emergence of freshman midfielder Ricardo “Ricky” Gomez, a product of suburban Miami who has taken over the defensive midfielder role played by standout Kevin Dzierzawski the past few years.

Working in front of Dartmouth’s four-man back line, the poised and smooth-striding Gomez has shown leaping ability and ignites the Big Green offense with well-chosen outlet passes and runs up the gut. Dzierzawski, an All-Ivy honoree last fall, signed with a Scottish pro team last month, forgoing his final year of NCAA eligibility.

Gomez “plays a very simple style, and what I love about him is that not only is he tough and can win headers, but when he wins the ball, he’s trying to find a pass with it right away,” Riley said. “He can find the open man, and it evaporates the pressure on our defense.”

Gomez and the back line will be tested this weekend during games against Kentucky and South Carolina at the latter school’s tournament. Dartmouth then hosts Albany and Vermont before Princeton arrives to start the Ivy League slate on Oct. 5.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.