SOCCER: Rossi's Torrid Scoring Pace Continues, Saline Defeats Dexter, 2-1

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All those years of playing older competition to keep up with his big brother are paying dividends for Christian Rossi.

The Saline junior scored two goals to lead Saline past Dexter, 2-1, and keep the Hornets undefeated in the SEC Red. Rossi's two-goal performance comes after his four-goal performance in Saline's 4-0 win at Bedford earlier this week.

Saline-Dexter Saline Photo Gallery

"Christian's putting us on his back," goalie Riley Behrman said after the win at Bedford. And he continued to do so Saturday against Dexter.

Rossi now has 12 goals nine games into the campaign. Saline soccer head coach Ryan Williams hinted at this kind of dominance in his pre-season preview article when he suggested Rossi should be a candidate for Mr. Soccer - the award given to the best high school soccer player in the state.

"The soccer's been exceptional," Williams said. "With his ability to finish we have to continue to get him touches because he makes so many plays. He has all the tools needed to be a great striker."

Williams said he's doing a fantastic job for the team - and not just because of his prodigious production.

"I've also been impressed with his leadership - vocally - and just setting the tone every single day and doing the job," Williams said. "If I was a college soccer coach, I'd want that kid."

Williams said Rossi's off-season workouts helped him improve even more.

"He was in the weight room, getting stronger and faster. He's a physical kid and he's not going to shy away from anything," Williams said.

Rossi tallied 9 goals as a freshman and 20 as a sophomore. And with the Hornets graduating so many seniors and returning with a fairly young squad, he knew he was going to be counted on fuel the attack this year.

"Scoring goals is my job. I do my job on the field. I think I'm doing pretty good at it so far," said Rossi, cracking a smile.

Rossi's been scoring goals since he was a freshman. As a junior, he still stands just 5'9. But he plays much bigger. He seems to sense weakness and fear in his opponent and badgers or physically overwhelms them to win battles and get better looks at the goal.

A lot of it comes down to desire.

"Playing physical helps you get past guys who are bigger," Rossi said. "If you want that ball more than the other guy, 9 times out of 10, you're going to get that ball."

And that desire is a byproduct of playing soccer with his older brother, Dominic, who was captain of the Saline team last year in his senior year. That desire to play with his brother meant he was going to have to compete against, older, bigger and stronger competition.

"My desire really comes from my brother because I always wanted to play at his level. So having good desire has helped me play up two-plus years and play in high school as well," Rossi said.

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Saline-Dexter Saline Photo Gallery

On Saturday, Dexter struck first as the Hornets got caught out of position and the Dreadnaughts attacked with numbers. AJ Gordon slid a shot past the diving Riley Behrman.

The Hornets, with the wind at their back in the first half on a windy day at Hornet Stadium, had all kinds of chances but couldn't put the ball past the Dexter keeper. Finally, a Saline corner resulted in a hand ball penalty in the box. Rossi lined up for the penalty kick and scored to tie the game at one.

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Saline continued to generate scoring chances with the wind at their back but couldn't score for the remainder of the half, On the other side of the field, Behrman was pressed into making a couple of stops on dangerous chances.

The second half began with the Hornets playing into the stiff wind. Jake Day took over in goal. 

Saline took the lead when Dexter's goalie bobbled a shot. Rossi pounced on the loose ball and put it past the keeper to give Saline the lead.

The Hornets and Dexter each had chances. Saline goalie Jake Day came running out and slid to kick a ball away from a rushing Dexter playing breaking in alone.

Saline-Dexter Saline Photo Gallery

Saline visits Huron Tuesday. The teams tied 0-0 earlier this year in a game called due to lightning early in the second half. Wednesday, Saline plays Pioneer. The Hornets and Pioneers are tied for first in the conference.

Here are the standings:

Team Conf Ovr
Pioneer 5-0-1 5-0-1
Saline 5-0-1 6-2-1
Skyline 5-1-1 7-2-1
Huron 3-2-1 4-2-1
Dexter 3-4 3-6-1
Monroe 1-5 5-5
Bedford 0-6-1 0-6-1
Lincoln 0-5-1 0-7-1
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