Early into its first season as a franchise, the Dalton Red Wolves are experiencing the ups and downs that come with a new club and a roster full of new players. Being able to earn wins while building a culture may be a measure of where this young club stands in the USL League Two.
The Red Wolves defeated Discoveries SC (Rock Hill, South Carolina) 1-0 Friday night at Christian Heritage School. The victory improved the Red Wolves' record to 2-1-1, but after the match coach Drew Courtney said he saw plenty of room for improvement.
"Tonight was really sloppy, I didn't think we played particularly well," Courtney said. "At the end of the day we came out with three points, so we'll move on and work on things but moving forward it has to be better."
Red Wolves striker Fuad Adeniyi recorded the match's first shot on goal six minutes into the game, and through the first 15 minutes the Red Wolves continued to test the back line of Discoveries SC. At the 22-minute mark, Red Wolves midfielder Abdel Kuku's through ball found the feet of right winger Schimiliguen Castin who took a touch and finished past the Discoveries goalkeeper, making the score 1-0.
Minutes later, Red Wolves left winger Jonathan Ricketts nearly added another goal when his shot from the left side was deflected wide. Red Wolves defensive midfielder Kentin Olive, a French international, controlled the midfield for the majority of the match, and said while he was happy with the win he knows the team needs to finish more of its scoring opportunities.
"In the first half it was fine, we played with probably 70% of the possession," Olive said. "But in the second half they pressed high and played with quality. We had a lot of chances and we have to score more goals."
The teams entered the halftime locker rooms with the score 1-0, and as the second half unfolded the play on the field became more and more physical. The Red Wolves tallied 12 shots in the match and several times in the second half made the Discoveries goalkeeper stretch to save would-be goals. On the other end of the field, Red Wolves goalkeeper Aaron Fraire held his ground when he was tested. Fraire was quick to attack any balls into the box and recorded two saves to earn his second clean sheet of the season.
"I definitely got in a rhythm," Fraire said. "It was bumpy at first but I definitely found a rhythm out there tonight. That team tonight was a lot more physical than the other teams we've played and coach told us we have to stick together when it gets like that."
As the match came to a close, several yellow cards were assessed to players from both sides following physical tackles. For the Red Wolves, who had all of two weeks to train together before the season began, whether new teammates would stand up for one another was tested a bit Friday night. Dalton center back Gui Campos, another French-born player on the Red Wolves, said he's definitely seen growth in that area.
"Of course, you can see the chemistry now," Campos. "Before, everyone was playing for himself. Now, we're starting to play together. If we won today, I think it's because we played as a group."
Although the Red Wolves created more chances than Discoveries SC and seemed to hold a majority of the possession, they were unable to finish beyond the lone first-half goal. Courtney said he was pleased with the effort of the substitutes on Friday, along with the growth he sees in terms of players finding their roles.
"I thought our substitutes came in there and finished the game out well for us," Courtney said. "We are coming together. It's good to see these boys have each other's backs and have leaders naturally rise to the top. We're starting to see those boys step up in the right places which is what we want to see."
The Red Wolves play the Charlotte Eagles (Charlotte, North Carolina) at 7 p.m. on Sunday at Christian Heritage School.