Sept. 1, 2021 — On Aug. 26, Siuslaw’s soccer team played their season opener at Newport High School. It was a hard-fought game, but the Vikings succumbed to Newport late in the second half after the Cubs reached an eight-point advantage.
“We went into the game expecting a tough matchup,” said Coach Londi Tomaro. “Our Varsity team had a full squad at the game; every player got minutes and contributed to the match. Although we did not score and the game ended 0-8, we did get several good chances, especially in the second half.”
One major disadvantage for Siuslaw occurred about halfway through the first half of the game when goalie Kayden Lane was given a red card ejection after accidentally tripping a player in front of the goal while trying to defend. As a result, the Viks had to play almost three quarters of the game one player down, and Lane will also have to sit out of their game tonight, serving a one-game suspension.
“Although it was an unlucky play, it was an automatic red card ejection because it denied an obvious goal scoring opportunity,” said Tomaro. “The kid was six yards away from the goal with an empty net, and he would have had to really flub up to miss — he could have just walked the ball into the net at that point.
“The referee came over and talked to Kayden at halftime and said he knew it was just unlucky—Kayden got beat and turned around and tried to dive for the ball, and accidentally tripped the kid. Anywhere else in the box, or even if there was a defender back there, it would have been a yellow card and penalty kick still, but he wouldn't have been ejected from the game. So, even though it wasn't a malicious foul, it's really situational.”
According to Tomaro, “A lot of times, a red card is for things that are really bad — hitting somebody, kicking somebody, spitting on somebody, yelling swear words directed at a person — if you yell in frustration and swear, it’s a yellow card, but if you swear at somebody, or use derogatory language at a person, then it's a red card. So, when you hear about a red card in soccer, it’s usually all these really bad things, but there's also this one situational red card which is automatic, and there's no wiggle room. It just has to be an ejection.”
Aside from being forced to play with one less person on the field, the unexpected changeup also had repercussions for the goal box.
“Derrick [Vanduch] was not prepared to play goalie until the second half,” Tomaro said. “Whenever something like that happens, and things get thrown off, it's a stressful situation.”
Fortunately, Vanduch stepped up and commanded his post.
“Derrick stopped their second penalty kick, which was good; that kept us alive because that would have been the eighth goal,” said Tomaro. “It's really hard as a goalkeeper to come in and have to take a penalty kick, and he chose the right direction to dive on the first one.”
Despite the shakeup, the Vikings kept fighting in the first half, but because of Newport’s strong defense, Siuslaw was only able to get two shots off.
“I think they made some good plays in the first half,” said Tomaro. “Something we are going to have to think about is when we’re trying to put the ball through and beat the defense running on to a through wall, it's really hard with teams where goalies come out [of the box] like Newport’s did. He came out really far, way outside of the box, and just attacked the ball with his feet and booted it out there so we didn't even have a chance to set up a shot.
“When you're playing a team like that, and either, 1. the defense is just as quick as you and you're not getting the shot; or 2. you can't find that sweet spot in between the defense and the goalie where you're getting an opportunity, you have to adjust,” she said. “You have to try a new strategy. You have to do more of the quick back and forth passing because that play wasn't working.”
The main struggle for the Vikings, though, was having to play with one less person on the field, which Newport utilized to their advantage.
“They scored a lot of goals because they used space really well,” said Tomaro. “They spread out, and they were just passing around us. They would drive the ball towards the corner, deep to the line, and our defense would get pulled over, but they would have one or two people waiting in front of the goal. Then, they would pass the ball out to those people who were basically not covered or defended and have an open shot on the goal at 18 yards out, or even closer. Those shots are hard for goalkeepers to defend because they're close, and that person can choose to shoot right away, or dribble in and go one-v-one with the goalie. … When the person has the ball at their feet and they're that close to the goal, it's really hard for the goalie to make the save at that point. So, they scored a bunch of goals because our defense didn't adapt quickly enough to that play they were running.”
The first half ended with the score at 0-7. In the second half, the Vikings were able to get three shots off, and the Cubs didn’t take as many shots as they did in the first half.
“They didn't want to end the game,” said Tomaro. “So, they were basically playing a possession game and trying to maintain control of the ball. They were also a person up, so there was no way we could guard every person on the field; they had 10 on the field and we had nine field players, not counting the goalies. They always would have somebody open, and I thought that our team did a really good job of just continuing to apply pressure and to attempt to win the ball, and when we did win the ball, to try to make passes.”
Siuslaw definitely has some very skilled players on the team, and as they are new to playing at the varsity level, Tomaro acknowledges the fact that they still have much to learn as far as working as a unit.
“I think one thing that hopefully the kids will see from this game is that even though we have some really skilled players who can bring the ball up the field, going one-v-one and trying to dribble through people is not going to get us the chances against teams that at this higher level,” she said. “We have to perfect our passes and our movement on the field and play more like [the Cubs] were playing, because if you're passing before the defender gets close to you, they can't steal the ball from you. Whereas, if you're trying to dribble past them, then they have an opportunity to take the ball.”
Siuslaw was able to take shots throughout the game, “and unfortunately, they were just a little bit off,” Tomaro said. “They just were not quite on target. But I was happy because at that point, we were playing a person down, and we still did get opportunities.”
In the end, Siuslaw gave it their all, but Newport’s team has been playing at the varsity level for longer, and the Vikings need time to grow together.
“I thought we were playing a team that had a different level of intensity to start out,” said Tomaro. “Our kids just don't have the intensity in warm up that the other team did. That's something we're working on. It's our second year at this level, so there are things we just have to learn.”
There were some standout players in the game.
“Jason [Garcia] had a great game, Ray [Brito Xilot] had a good game, Dylan [Jensen] had a good game, Noel [Hernandez] had a good game, Alex [Goss] had a great game; a lot of kids played well individually, we just have to now move to the level where they're more of a cohesive unit,” Tomaro said. “I'm happy with the way almost every kid on the field played — some of them it was their first varsity high school game, and you have to settle in. It's just that now we have to move to a different style of play using different on-field techniques so we can compete with teams that play this way, because they’re all good players, but you can't do it alone. And I hope they saw it in this game.”
Tomaro plans to work more on this moving forward, specifically focusing on passing with her team.
“When we work on passes in practice sometimes, they’re like, ‘Ugh, passing again?’ But it’s because these other teams can pass, and their passes are going right to the person every single time,” she said. “When we have to chase a pass, it's just an opportunity for the other team to take the ball, and then you have to win it back again. So, we're going to talk on Monday and hopefully they’ll be able to look at things more clear-eyed and prepare for the next game.”
Overall, Tomaro was pleased with her team’s effort in their first game of the season.
“I am really proud of the team for playing with heart and intensity and persevering through a tough situation,” she said. “Not one player on the field gave up and, through their persistence and continued efforts, they adapted to the situation and were able to create some goal-scoring opportunities of their own.”
The team’s next match is tonight, Wednesday, Sept. 1, at home against Creswell starting at 6:30 p.m. Their next game will be on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 6, at North Bend at 6 p.m.