Soccer - Varsity Boys
|Date:||October 12, 2017|
Catlin Gabel 5, Portland Adventist Academy 0
Portland Adventist School, October 12, 2017
We came out ready to play our eighth match in four years against 3-time state finalist PAA, a perennial power who’ve been led by a great Senior class. We caught a break due to an injury to PAA’s star attacker, but those at the game can attest that they have plenty of speed up front and good size across the field; they are an older team than us and physically they gave us plenty to handle.
We didn’t start the game as sharply as we hoped; though controlling possession, we lacked poise in the final third, and were a bit sleepy in anticipation. Nonetheless, Ben managed to blast a left-footer off the crossbar, and Evan met Spud’s corner with a drilled header that just cleared the crossbar. Meanwhile, we were still sorting out how to manage PAA’s speed on the wings, and got a few timely bursts from Fritz to sort out a few breakdowns. While we were controlling the midfield, it took some persistence to succeed. We finally broke through on an element that we’ve wanted to improve upon all year: cutting onto the longer ball from wing. Rowan timed his run perfectly to slip onto Evan’s delicious long ball, and kept his poise while rifling the ball high past the PAA keeper. As so often is the case, one goal sets the table for the next, and quickly a series of passes through midfield led to Spud finishing at close range after a calmly laid-on pass by Rowan. Mateo was on the ball quite a bit in the last minutes of the second half, and his nicely clipped ball cleared the opposition right back and dropped as intended into Rowan’s path. Two touches later it was 3-0, and we went into halftime. We played less-than-stellar football at the outset of the second half, as PAA shifted their most talented players into midfield and punished lackadaisical touches, of which there a good bit more than the ideal. However, while the midfield was defensively superb in the first half, it was the backline’s time to step up their game, and every big surge through midfield by PAA was met at the end by either Evan or Victor putting an emphatic yet controlled end to their probes, and Fritz was sharp with a host of balls that were passed back his way, and gave the opposition little reason for optimism.
Then, a dramatic sky gave way to lightning, and a 40-minute break, as per OSAA guidelines (30 minutes needed of lightning-free sky needed to continue). We scurried into the PAA gym through the hail, and enjoyed (or were pummeled by—depending on your birthdate) volleyball warm-up music. I did talk to one adult who was convinced that the lightning was close by, and I said, “were you born in Oregon?” Affirmative. It reminded me of watching lightning with Dashiell in his childhood, a rare occasion where the Georgian in me only got stirred when the walls shook from thunder. The lightning wasn’t anywhere near us, but the rules were followed as they should be, and we eventually got re-started in a beautiful filtered sunlight, though it got awfully dark before we ended. Like, really dark. We picked up our game a bit after the lightning delay, and got two goals close to the end. On the first, Ben smashed a shot from an acute angle, and then headed the rebound the far post, where it was clawed away from the goal line. Christian was in hot pursuit and slid the ball back across the middle (instead of settling for an impossible angle shot—an idea that we could benefit from), and it passed Mateo’s way (for his second assist) to Ben, who was justly rewarded with an easier finish after his hard work on the play (and day, to be fair). Perhaps the prettiest goal came a few minutes later, when Spud surged forward with runners to his left; one of the arts of the game, though, is to play the best pass, not just any pass—or even a good one. The great players find and execute the killer pass in those rare moments when it is on. Accordingly, Spud let the runners drag the defense to his left and found Keegan in stride back to his right, and Keegan drove an unstoppable low shot to the far post to cap off a strong offensive night for the team. I am dubious that any team has scored five goals against PAA for many, many years, but we accomplished that tonight. I still think we can get much better, but this was an authoritative performance.
Beyond the scoring, a few performances stood out. It was great to have Fritz back—he was sharp and showed how quickly he can surge forward to narrow the angles on the attackers. Evan and Victor were superb in the back—and got better throughout the day. They were unbreakable—and effective in keeping possession as well. The handled a good dose of athletic talent coming from the midfield and were superb on the long throws that caused us some problems in the first match with PAA this year. Brogan got a very brief moment against OES—super-brief due to the Dale Earnhardt-worthy pit-crew who patched up Victor’s cut last Friday—but this was really his debut and he showed that he’s a force to be reckoned with; look for him to get a lot of ink next year. Liam also got a taste of fullback play. After 3 ½ years of incredible dedication to becoming a goalkeeper, a broken finger has cast Liam in a new role. The improvement in his touch has been truly remarkable, and he looked like an old pro holding down his flank. Finally a good day for our frosh middies. Mateo showed characteristic purpose in his passes, notching two assists on the day, and showing a glimpse of an extremely bright future. Lastly, Kai had an outstanding first half, dominating his tackles, passing crisply, and hitting the wickedest shot of the day, a tailing drive from 30 yards that beat the keeper but flew back off the crossbar. The opposition were driven a bit nuts by his slides, but the referee rightly concluded that his timing was superb, always taking the ball first and almost always avoiding direct contact altogether with the opposition. You could make a “how to” video over the execution on many of these tackles. Add in several wins in aerial contests, and it was a tour de force performance from the lad.
We have a busy week next week, but this win puts us in an excellent position in terms of the extremely competitive District 1, where we sit in 2nd place, with a game in hand (the first 3 teams qualify for state). We have a non-league game against Riverdale, and then return back home for games Wednesday and Friday (against Faith Bible and Portland Christian/Columbia Christian, respectively). Friday afternoon is Senior Night, where we honor what has been one of the all-time great classes at Catlin (the classes of ’05, ’11, and ’16 might have something to day about that—as would Dana’s ’73 class, no doubt). If you have a chance to give them a cheer, we would love the support.
Thanks again for all the support. The season is headed toward the time where it can end at any moment, and whenever that time comes will be heart-wrenching. I couldn’t ask for a more fun and high-spirited group of kids with which to work. Enjoy it while you can—like all of life.