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Third coach could be charm for LO boys soccer

Despite having won just one game this season, the Lake Oswego boys soccer team is still alive in the chase for a playoff berth. To do it, though, the Lakers might have to win four of their last five league games.

But that seems like a real possibility after seeing the way Lake Oswego has played under new head coach Fraser Morrison.

Morrison is Lake Oswego's third coach of the season, replacing interim coach Garrett Marcum, who was filling in for Colin Stead, who was forced out following an outburst after the West Linn game three weeks ago.

The multiple coaching changes could have been enough to throw Lake Oswego's season into chaos. But Morrison, who toils full-time for the Lake Oswego Soccer Club, suddenly has the Lakers playing better than anyone in the Three Rivers League, aside from Lakeridge, of course.

In Morrison's two games in charge, the Lakers settled for a 0-0 tie with Clackamas last week and then scraped together a 1-1 tie against Milwaukie on Monday after having outplayed the host Mustangs for almost the entire game.

The Lakers didn't just outplay the Mustangs on Monday. They had the ball for almost three-quarters of the game. They also mounted more scoring opportunities, including one that would have won the game with a minute remaining. But the Lakers (1-3-3 in the Three Rivers League) just couldn't quite get over the hump.

'As I told (the players) after the game, this game has a way of either patting you on the back or kicking you in the rear. At the moment, it's kicking us in the rear,' Morrison said.

But it's a much different feeling than what Lake Oswego experienced early in the season, when everyone seemed to be waiting for someone else to do something spectacular. Now, under Morrison's direction, the Lakers are playing with much more purpose and considerably more energy.

'The boys have showed that they've got a quality about them when they put their minds to it,' Morrison said. 'The balls are dropping to the people you want to drop them to, in front of the goal, but we're just not executing.'

More appropriately, the Lakers didn't execute often enough on Monday to win the game. But they certainly put the ball in position enough to get the job done.

Unfortunately, Lake Oswego was fighting from behind for almost the entire game. Lake Oswego spotted the second-place Mustangs an early goal that stood up until late in the second half.

Then, just when things were beginning to look dim, the Lakers put together a rush that caught Milwaukie's defense out of position. It started with a long pass to Nevin Andrews in the left corner of the offensive zone. He quickly dribbled past two defenders and found Rio Asai streaking down the middle of the field.

A perfectly-placed pass left Asai with multiple options for a shot. He picked the near side and easily beat the Milwaukie goalie with a shot into the upper corner, which tied the game at 1-all with 8:45 left. It was a nifty combination goal that Lake Oswego had been striving for the entire game. Then, after numerous attempts, the pieces all came together at the right time.

After giving up the tying goal, Milwaukie worked hard to get the lead back but Lake Oswego's defense refused to bend. That push also made the Mustangs vulnerable to a counter attack, and sure enough, it came with about one minute left in the contest.

It led to what might have been Lake Oswego's best display of teamwork that night. Asai, who seemed to be everywhere against the Mustangs, put the Lakers in position when he split a pair of defenders in the goalie box. Asai then flipped a pass to his left to Jackson Ray, who had only the goalie to beat. But Jackson, who was one of Lake Oswego's steadiest players Monday night, put his chip shot over the crossbar.

The Lakers didn't have time to feel sorry for themselves, though. That's because Milwaukie turned the ensuing goal kick into an offensive rush that nearly netted the winning goal with 30 seconds left.

The only thing that stopped Milwaukie from scoring was freshman goalie Alex Watson's decision to leave the net to cut down on the shooting angle. The move worked perfectly as Watson deflected the shot as it left the foot of the Milwaukie player.

'He kept us in it throughout the game,' Morrison said of Watson. 'For a freshman, he's big time. He helped us out on a number of occasions this evening. He's certainly playing beyond his years, he is.'

He is indeed. In fact, the Lake Oswego roster is filled with talented young players who are probably only going to get better. But can they salvage a season that appeared to be all but lost a few weeks ago?

After Monday's action, Clackamas and Putnam were tied for the league's final two playoff spots with 13 points apiece. The Lakers were seven points back and might need to win four of their final five games to wrestle one of those playoffs spots away.

'Undoubtedly it's a hole. But who wants the easy job? Let's see what we can do,' Morrison said.

'Who knows, maybe we can turn things around this season. And who knows what could happen in the playoffs?' the coach added.

Even if the Lakers come up short this season, Morrison would like to stick around and see what he can do in the future with this team.

'I have no desire to uproot and go anywhere else,' Morrison said. 'I'm going to be involved (with the Lakers) for the foreseeable future.'

That's good news for a program that has been in limbo for almost the entire season.