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Laker boys shock rivals in soccer

by: Vern Uyetake, 
Lakeridge’s Taylor Thompson looks like he’s balancing the ball on his head as he tries to direct a pass toward the goal.

On paper, it looked like a mismatch, but such notions are meaningless when it comes to Civil War showdowns.

Still, it had to be at least somewhat shocking Tuesday night when the Lake Oswego boys soccer team outplayed highly touted Lakeridge for most of the final 40 minutes and earned a 2-1 victory in the process.

It was Lake Oswego's first victory over the Lakeridge boys since the 2000 season and it was the Pacers' first loss in the Three Rivers League since 2001.

There weren't many people that saw this coming. The Pacers are easily one of the best teams in the state and they were talking about winning their second state title in the last four years.

The Lakers, on the other hand, were having trouble just winning games in the TRL. In fact, Lake Oswego suffered a recent loss to Putnam and had to settle for an improbable tie against West Linn last Thursday.

So, how could the Lakers possibly outplay Pacers on Tuesday?

'It's something I didn't really question,' Lake Oswego coach Fraser Morrison said of his team's ability. '(The Lakers) are good enough to be one of the best teams in this league. But they have to make the decision to play well.'

The Lakers (2-1-1 TRL) didn't settle for just playing well on Tuesday. They played easily their best game of the season, maybe of their lives.

The first half gave an indication of what might lie ahead when the Pacers had trouble just holding onto the ball at times. And the Lakers took advantage of virtually every opportunity by putting constant pressure on Lakeridge's defense.

'I think the boys realized that if you want to measure yourself up as a soccer player, you want to do it against Lakeridge. I think they decided to step up and show what they could do,' Morrison said.

By halftime, when the game was still deadlocked at 0-0, it was clear that Lakeridge would have to play better to beat the Lakers. Normally, that wouldn't be a problem for the Pacers, who have the ability to turn up the intensity when needed.

But on Tuesday, it was Lake Oswego that looked like the better team in the second half. The Lakers almost dominated play at times.

All of that hustle led to a brilliant first goal by the Lakers, which came with 26:40 left in the half. The play started with a nice run down the left flank by Ryo Asai. After making it halfway into the goalie box, Asai made a perfect crossing pass to Brian Greenberg and he deposited a shot between the legs of Lakeridge goalkeeper Jason Dodson.

'Oh yeah, that was a nice finish,' Morrison said. 'I think that made people stand up and say, 'Wow, this team is serious about giving Lakeridge a game.' '

Lakeridge nearly tied the game four minutes later when Facundo Dipascuale unleashed a long, arching shot that seemed destined to find its way into the net. But Lake Oswego goalkeeper Thomas Olen saved the day for the Lakers when he tipped the ball over the crossbar.

The Lakers then added an insurance goal with 15:37 left on a penalty kick by Joseph Ginn. The penalty was assessed when a shot by Lake Oswego's Jackson Ray glanced off the elbow of a Lakeridge defender. Ginn then belted the kick into the right corner of the net and Dodson never had a chance to stop it.

'One-nil is always a dangerous score in a game like this, so that (second) goal proved invaluable at the end,' the Lake Oswego coach said.

Morrison's concerns were realized when Lakeridge mounted a furious rally down the stretch and finally netted a goal with 1:06 left when Taylor Thompson headed in a throw-in from Jordan Schrader.

'I don't know too many goalies that would have stopped that,' Morrison said.

After that, the Pacers swarmed the offensive end with attackers and they delivered four or five quality shots. The flurry had Morrison sweating and the Laker defenders scurrying to keep the ball out of the net.

'I feel good that our guys played hard all the way through the end of the game. So that was a positive for me,' Lakeridge coach Paul Slover said.

'It made the last minute or so of the game very uncomfortable. And I think Mr. Slover gave (the clock operator) directions to turn the buzzer off at the end,' Morrison said jokingly. 'It took a few years off my life, that (game did).'

Despite the outcome, the Pacers probably weren't shocked by how well the Lakers played on Tuesday. They all know each other pretty well.

'I'm sure they expected a good game from us. They're all familiar with one another and they've all grown up playing together in club,' Morrison noted. 'Maybe you could say (Lakeridge) had a little bit of an off-night. We're just happy it was this evening.'

Slover agreed that his team could have played better.

'I think we just got complacent,' he said. 'I thought we would be more effective on the attacking end, which we weren't tonight.'

Slover felt his team played its worst in the first half, when the Pacers coughed up possession of the ball on several occasions.

'What's interesting is we lost the game in the second half, and I thought we were playing better in that half,' Slover said.

In an odd way, this loss might be just what the Pacers (3-1 TRL) needed. With the extra incentive they have now, they might steamroll most of their remaining opponents. In the recent past, most of the Pacers' long playoff runs came after they suffered a tough, early-season loss.

'Not getting tested (during the season) can hurt you,' Slover said. 'So, we've got to take the positives from this.'