Vikings dismantle Newberg

soccer -- Forest Grove boys score early and often in a 9-1 rout of Newberg
by: Zack Palmer,

The first indication that Forest Grove just might be better than its 0-6 record came on Thursday night, as the Vikings notched their first win of the season in convincing fashion - a 9-1 rout of Newberg in a Pacific Conference boys soccer match.

Forest Grove (1-6, 1-2) stacked its early-season schedule with 6A heavyweights, including Westview, last year's state runner-up and the No. 4 ranked team in the state, and Lakeridge, currently ranked No. 2 in the soccer poll. To add insult to injury, the Viks had to open league play against Tualatin (No. 5 in the state) and Tigard, two teams expected to battle for a conference championship this year.

But even as the losses mounted, Forest Grove players knew they were better than their record indicated.

'The losses were really starting to build up and hurt our confidence, so it was nice to go out there and show everyone how we can really play,' said junior captain Eric Laukkanen. 'I don't think our record reflects our abilities at all. We had some breakdowns in defense in a few games, but ... there were a lot of parents from other teams who have said that the scores didn't reflect our play at all.'

The Vikings went out and proved it in a big way on Thursday.

Forest Grove jumped all over Newberg early, scoring three goals in the first eight minutes before eventually settling on a 5-0 halftime lead that would not be challenged. Newberg got its only goal in the 59th minute to make it 5-1, but the Vikings closed with four goals in the final 15 minutes to put an exclamation point on the victory.

'It felt good because it was our first win of the season,' said Forest Grove head coach Cristian Curiel. 'I know (Newberg) is not the strongest team in the league, but to score nine goals is really something.'

Forest Grove was paced by senior striker J.C. McKinnon, who had three goals and an assist, the latter coming with 11 minutes left and an empty goal after Newberg keeper Linden Fisher overshot a loose ball in the box. McKinnon, who had two goals at that point, elected to forgo the hat trick and instead let teammate Jesse Garnica finish off goal No. 7 for the Vikings.

'He's my teammate. He can score for me,' McKinnon said with a laugh after the game. The junior would eventually get his hat trick with an unassisted goal in the 77th minute, but it was that type of unselfishness that lifted the Vikings to their highest goal output of the year.

Forest Grove dominated possession and controlled both the pace and style of play all night. Newberg (0-7, 0-3) struggled to limit Forest Grove's attack opportunities, leaving the wings open for the Vikings to lob one cross after another into the box.

That advantage paid immediate dividends for Forest Grove, as Jason Cirlincione streaked down the right wing in the second minute and fed Carter Davis for a shot near the top of the 18. The shot was blocked, but the rebound landed at the feet of Jose Martinez, who beat Fisher low and left for the first goal of the game.

The Vikings wasted no time getting goals No. 2 and 3, as McKinnon collected a rebound in front of the goal and banged it home in the seventh minute and teammate Julio Galvan beat Fisher one-on-one in the eighth minute for a 3-0 Forest Grove lead.

Juan Pablo Vasquez would score on a penalty kick in the 15th minute after Newberg was whistled for a hand ball in the box, and McKinnon got his second goal of the night in the 25th minute on a feed from Martinez on the left wing.

Curiel subbed liberally to start the second half, but reinserted his starters with about 20 minutes left to work on possession.

Cirlincione got his first goal of the game in the 65th minute when a cross from Vasquez bounced twice in the box, slipping past three Newberg defenders to Cirlincione on the right side of the penalty area. The senior ripped a shot low across the goal mouth into the left side netting for a 6-1 Forest Grove lead. Cirlincione would add another goal in the 75th minute on a cross from Rafael Galvan.

'It feels really good,' said McKinnon of the resounding victory. 'We knew we were capable of playing like this, we just didn't for some reason. We weren't having fun playing the game. Tonight we were having fun.'

If the Vikings continue having as much fun on the pitch as they did Thursday night, Curiel knows the team can do some damage.

'The guys are so happy,' he said. 'Hopefully after this they see that anything can happen. McMinnville already played (Newberg) and they only beat them 4-0. So as you can see, we have something. If we can put it together, we can go far.'

The Vikings played McMinnville (7-0, 3-0) - the third-ranked team in the state - on Tuesday, but results were not available at press time. Next up for Forest Grove is a home game against Canby on Thursday.