Eastlake’s momentum falls flat in last-minute loss
April 8, 2014
By Neil Pierson
Crawling into a defensive shell against a talented opponent usually isn’t a great recipe for success in the game of soccer.
It was a lesson learned the hard way last week for the Eastlake Wolves, who held a one-goal lead against the visiting Garfield Bulldogs with less than 10 minutes to play.
But two late goals brought the Bulldogs back from the precipice of defeat, and they knocked off the Wolves 3-2 in a Class 4A KingCo Conference match on April 1.
Wolves coach Adam Gervis said his players simply lost their attacking mentality late in the game, and the Bulldogs made them pay.
“When we were up 2-1 with 20 minutes (left), they just shut it down, and you can’t shut it down,” Gervis said. “They’ve mentally said, ‘OK, we’ve got it in the bag,’ and good teams know that doesn’t happen.”
Eastlake rebounded after a slow start. In the fourth minute, Garfield’s Jokichi Matsubara got on the end of a corner kick and headed it past Wolves goalkeeper Jack Hornsby from point-blank range.
The Bulldogs controlled possession for long stretches of the first half, but the Wolves wound up with the halftime lead thanks to a pair of unstoppable shots.
In the 25th minute, Anthony Humay found space in the middle of the field and unleashed a 20-yard rocket that found the far side of the net.
Connor Ahlquist put Eastlake in front in the 37th minute after taking a crossing pass from Connor Finley. Ahlquist whiffed on his first attempt, but kept the ball in front of him and volleyed a shot from the top of the penalty area into the upper left corner of the goal.
Garfield’s Abdi Abdulahi nearly tied the score before the halftime whistle, but his shot struck the crossbar and bounced out.
With the lead, the Wolves surrendered much of the possession in the second half, although they were able to generate some dangerous counterattacks. Forward Kekoa Knief was the target on many chances, but was unable to make good shots after beating the last defender, Gervis said.
Still, the defeat rested more on lax defending late in the game, the coach indicated.
“What was good to see is the things we asked them to do, they did,” he said. “But they didn’t do it all the second half. First half, they got it going and they did really well. Second half, they just went back a step. And who knows what that was about? We’ll figure that out as we go along.”
Physical play began picking up late in the match, with the referee handing out yellow cards to Garfield’s August Marquard and Eastlake’s Humay.
Abdulahi’s speedy influence may have turned the game in the Bulldogs’ favor. He drew a penalty kick in the 73rd minute, which teammate Joseph Hurley converted to tie the score.
Three minutes later, he created the winning goal with a powerful shot from outside the box. The ball hit the crossbar, but Matsubara was there to collect the rebound and head it past Hornsby.
“No. 11 made merry work of us,” Gervis said of Abdulahi. “He’s a very good player and he moved it around, and he switched it, and he did all sorts of really nice things with it, but they gave him too much power. They gave him too much presence.”
The Wolves have only three players with previous varsity experience, and Gervis said he’s giving them time and space to figure things out for themselves.
The team could get better defensively after Kris Rudella became eligible and played for the first time.
But Rudella isn’t a natural center back, Gervis said, and he’ll have a learning curve for improvement.
“They’re going to be a very good team by the end of the season, but they have to learn to figure things out. It’s hard,” Gervis said.
Reach reporter Neil Pierson at 392-6434, ext. 242 or firstname.lastname@example.org.