AUBURN — By the end of Saturday's MVC boys' soccer opener against Winthrop, St. Dom's started to resemble its teams of the past, mixing in solid shots, smart ball movement and possession.
Getting to that point throughout the teams' first countable game of the season was a bit more arduous, particularly because of the Ramblers' improvement from a year ago, an in part thanks to sophomore keeper Matt Sekerak.
Ultimately, though, the Saints were just too much, securing a 4-0 opening-day victory over Winthrop.
"Overall, I think we dominated in the air and our passing was excellent," St. Dom's coach Marty Bressler said. "I think we clamped down and finished the game possessing the ball well, but we definitely have to work on our finishing. We have a long way to go to get where we want to be."
"St. Dom's has a dynasty, they're good, they're always good," Winthrop coach Dave Valle said. "We came in, I think we did the best we've done against these guys in years. We held them to four goals, and we've lost to them in some games 10-2, so I'm proud of the guys."
The Saints (1-0) outshot the Ramblers (0-1) 46-1, and forced Sekerak to make 21 saves, several of those from point-blank range.
"We had a great keeper for the past four years, and (Sekerak), he's only a sophomore, and he will probably surpass the player who just graduated who was, in my opinion, one of the best keepers we had," Valle said.
"It looked like he understood the angles, and it looked like he knew when to come off his line," Bressler said.
For the first 20 minutes of play, Sekerak appeared to be enough to hold St. Dom's at bay as he kept the game scoreless. The Saints also helped him by missing the net more than 10 times from inside of 30 yards.
Zak Johnson put the home team in front in the 21st minute on a feed from Tyler Furtado, and Furtado scored his own goal in the final minute of the first half to pad the Saints' cushion.
Between those goals, Winthrop saw its only tru scoring chance of the game come and go, as St. Dom's keeper Ben Sawyer stopped the only chance he had all game.
"It could have been even tighter than it turned out to be," Valle said. "First game out, a lot of new guys, I think we'll do well this year."
It took nearly 20 minutes in the second half for St. Dom's to add to its total, but not for a lack of effort as the Saints held a large territorial advantage, but couldn't convert. Jordan Charest broke through in the 18th minute of the second half after a long cross from the right side by Calvin Stewart bounced in front of the cage. Stewart finished his own chance off the left post in the 33rd minute to cap the scoring.
Bressler said after the game that, in addition to better possession and shot selection, playing as a team and having several different players put the ball in the cage will be big for the Saints this season.
"We really believe in a balanced attack," Bressler said. "It used to be so easy when we had two superstars scoring all the goals, but we don't have that anymore. We have to have a more balanced attack. Teams like NYA and Waynflete have a more balanced attack, and in order to compete with those teams, the Hall-Dales and the Dirigos, we have to be balanced."