Lions close in on first TRL title since 2000

by: MATTHEW SHERMAN Hugo Rhoads scored both of West Linn’s second-half goals in its 3-1 win over Clackamas last week, moving the team into first place. The Lions just needed a win over Oregon City on Wednesday to clinch the league title.

At the beginning of the season the West Linn boys soccer team set a goal for itself to accomplish something that hadn't been done in more than a decade.

And with the Lions' 3-1 win over Clackamas last week, they put themselves right on the doorstep of accomplishing that goal.

West Linn knocked off the Cavaliers for the second time this year, vaulting them for first place in the Three Rivers League.

The Lions only needed to beat winless Oregon City on Wednesday night to claim sole possession of first place this year, something that hadn't been accomplished since 2000.

After opening league play 1-1-1, West Linn has been on a terrific streak, going 5-0-1 ever since.

"As coaches, you always want your team to be peaking at the end of the season. I'm not sure if we're quite there yet but I think we're close," coach Greg Bean said.

For whatever reason, the Lions seem to match up extremely well against Clackamas this year. The Cavaliers haven't lost to anyone in league aside from West Linn but, in two meetings with the Lions, West Linn has won by a combined score of 6-1.

"We have struggled with teams who play a little more direct this year. Lakeridge gave us some fits and so did Lake Oswego and Canby at times. Clackamas isn't as direct and we've played very well against them," Bean said.

The Lions started off the game well on senior night and controlled most of the first 20 minutes.

But it was Clackamas that was able to strike first.

The Cavaliers earned a corner kick and, on a second chance following the cross into the box, they were able to score.

West Linn continued to keep the pressure on Clackamas and the Lions were rewarded about 10 minutes later.

West Linn earned a free kick near midfield that was sent into the box by Max Dimm.

Kyle Tribken was able to knock the ball down to Nour Alharithi who put it into the net for his first goal of the season.

The game was tied at the half but the Lions were confident that they could continue to outplay Clackamas for the final 40 minutes.

In the second half West Linn caught a break.

A ball was played back behind Clackamas' defense and West Linn's Jackson Brooke looked to beat the Clackamas goalie to the ball. The Cavaliers' goalie grabbed the ball but he was just outside the goal box, earning West Linn a free kick from a dangerous spot.

Hugo Rhoads took the kick and buried it into the net to give the Lions the lead.

"It was kind of the Hugo Rhoads show from that point on," Bean said.

Rhoads helped to put the game away for the Lions midway through the second half.

He had the ball close to 30 yards away from the net and was being marked closely by a defender. Rhoads then switched the ball to his off-foot and hit a perfect shot to make it 3-1.

"For three years now I've heard people yelling for their defenders to put Hugo on his right foot. He hit that shot on a rope and it was kind of a profound statement. That may have been the goal of the year," Bean said.

After that it was simply a matter of controlling the ball and concentrating on defense which the Lions did extremely well.

"I was happier with the way we finished than how we did against Lake Oswego," Bean said.

Defensively the Lions were solid once again and have given up the fewest number of goals in the league this year.

Dimm led a strong effort by the team's back line and Ryan Harman had another terrific game in goal.

Assuming West Linn gets by Oregon City the Lions will likely host a playoff game next week.

"There was a lot of emotion because the kids weren't sure if this would be their last game on their home field," Bean said.