FARMINGDALE — Watching the Hall-Dale High School boys soccer team on the attack, with its breakneck pace and high pressure form, it’s easy to forget that there’s lots of dirty work being done in support.

For junior center back Matt Albert, it’s a role he’s more than happy to fill.

“Whatever has to happen for us to win is fine with me,” Albert said.

A season ago, Albert was a part-time player for the Bulldogs. He saw the field, but his impact went largely unnoticed. This season, he started in a central midfield role, providing an engine from which Hall-Dale’s six-person attack could find its momentum.

Albert won balls, distributed wide and used his booming right foot to get the Bulldogs out of trouble when it was presented.

It’s part of the reason coach Andy Haskell moved him to the back line in the middle of the season.

“We just switched roles with he and Bo (Vachon),” Haskell said. “By switching those two players it made us a little stronger in the back. Matt’s a little more confident with the ball in the back, and Bo’s really tenacious in the midfield. Those two things have made us better than we were in September.”

Albert’s comfort level with his own game, Haskell said, has not been lost in the shuffle of the Bulldogs’ high-scoring capabilities. If anything, he said, it’s only helped to cement it.

“Matt has done a really good job anchoring the defense, both he and Eli (Smith),” Haskell said. “His distribution and decision making has been much better. That’s the difference between him this year and last year. Those guys in the back are all either former strikers or midfielders. Their ball-handling abilities are much better.

“When you have that kind of confidence in the back, we’re able to get the counter-attack going much faster than we have in the past. We used to sit back and counter, but now we’re able to put pressure on (opposing) players and counter. That’s a big difference.”

Hall-Dale is 11-1-0 and sits third in the Class C South standings, currently enjoying a nine-game winning streak. They’ve got No. 2 Monmouth on Thursday afternoon — a rematch of their only loss of the season — plus a season finale at Carrabec and likely the Mountain Valley Conference championship still to come.

Haskell likes the way the end of the season lines up as the postseason looms.

“When we get to October, we want to have our system in play. We like our schedule with the build up to the playoffs,” Haskell said. “We think that’s the best preparation for us, and the kids are playing really well. They’re really relaxed and they’re playing really confident. That’s a difference, and our style of play’s different, than when we played Monmouth (in the third game of the season).”

And then there’s the contributions of a player like Albert, who devoted his offseason to playing travel soccer at the premier level, and he thinks the pace of play he picked up there against quality opposition translated into his growth as a high school varsity player.

He defines himself as a defensive midfielder, one who’s as happy to defend as he is to contribute to the attack.

“(The role) is really important, because we can start from the back and hit it up to our attackers so they can score goals and get good looks,” Albert said. “We used to stay back more. Now we pressure and look to attack. Since we’ve started doing that, it’s been working out. It’s great.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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