Lions rally well in loss to Lakeridge

by: Vern Uyetake, West Linn’s Ryan Kurtin outruns a Lincoln defender in the Lions’ 2-0 loss to the Cardinals last Thursday. Kurtin had an assist in West Linn’s 4-2 loss to Lakeridge last Tuesday. The Lions are now 1-2 on the year and will take on Oregon City next Thursday.

Down four goals against one of the best teams in the state, the West Linn boys' soccer team probably could have been forgiven if they mailed in the final 30 minutes of the game. It probably would have been easy to just fall back, play defense and wait for the final whistle.

Instead, the Lions responded by playing some of their best soccer of the night, scoring their first goal of the contest minutes after Lakeridge notched its fourth. West Linn forced the Pacers to keep up their intensity throughout the second half as the Lions turned in an encouraging effort in a 4-2 loss.

For a while it didn't look like the Lions would be able to take anything positive away from their league-opener. Just 47 seconds into the game, West Linn failed to clear a ball into the goal box and Eric Destefano volleyed a shot into the net to give his team a quick lead.

The Pacers dominated the first half, firing 10 shots in the opening 20 minutes of play. Goalie Joe Offer had his hands full all night and came up with a number of solid saves, otherwise the game easily could have gotten out of hand.

West Linn's first good chance came when Adelkaddar Elhabassi sent a free kick into the box and Pierce Nusbaum headed it off the crossbar.

'We've been on the unlucky side of a lot of plays like that. That's kind of been the story of our season so far,' Bean said.

Just a few minutes later, Lakeridge got on the board again when Destefano took a good feed from Johnathan Warner and knocked it past a diving Offer.

But West Linn buckled down on defense and kept Lakeridge off the board for the rest of the half despite the Pacers' constant pressure.

The second half opened similarly to the first. Just two minutes after the whistle blew, Destefano hit a shot that was saved but the rebound found its way to Grant Branam who knocked it into the open net.

Six minutes later, Facundo Dipascuale made a brilliant run from midfield, beat two defenders and tallied Lakeridge's final goal of the evening.

But at this point, the Lions suddenly came to life. While still playing against Lakeridge's starters, West Linn earned another free kick that was headed over the top of the net. Minutes later, Elhabassi laid a nice cross to Drew Tucker who knocked it into the goal.

'I was thrilled with the second half. We played a lot better than we started,' Bean said.

Lakeridge continued to fire off shot attempts but struggled with accuracy in the second half. The Pacers out-shot West Linn 31-6 in the contest but the Lions made the most of their opportunities.

With just under seven minutes to play in the game, Ryan Kurtin received the ball near the endline and managed to hold off a defender long enough to send the ball in front of the net where Tucker again was in the right place at the right time for his second goal of the evening.

The final minutes of the contest were played with intensity from both sides and West Linn came away from the loss feeling good about how much it has improved so far.

'We saw what this team is capable of (tonight.) Whether we get that team on a daily basis remains to be seen. They're so young and still getting used to playing with each other,' Bean said.

The Lions' next game is at home against the Oregon City Pioneers.