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Pacer boys retain margin atop TRL

by: Vern Uyetake, 
Lakeridge’s Facundo Dipascuale, right, fields a pass during a recent soccer game against West Linn. The Pacers won the game 4-1 and beat Putnam by the same score on Monday.

A pair of victories in the past week kept the Lakeridge boys soccer team atop the Three Rivers League standings and kept the possibility of a Civil War showdown for the league title alive.

Last Thursday, the Pacers knocked off West Linn 4-1 in a game that saw three penalty kicks. Lakeridge got off to a quick start, scoring just a few minutes into the game when the Lions made a hard tackle in the goal box and the Pacers were awarded a penalty kick.

Lakeridge earned another penalty kick before the first half was over, taking a 2-0 advantage into the break.

While the Pacers dominated the flow of the game, West Linn rebounded in the second half and put more pressure on Lakeridge's defense.

'They have some good players that can pressure you and if you don't control the ball in the back you just end up giving it right back to them,' coach Paul Slover said.

Lakeridge took a 3-0 lead before a hard collision between Pacer goalie Jason Dodson and a West Linn forward drew a penalty kick for the Lions. The ensuing shot broke up the shutout but the Pacers held on for the victory.

That win led into Monday's showdown with Putnam. The Kingsmen have been one of the league's most surprising teams this year and are currently in second place after scoring a victory over Lake Oswego earlier in the year.

Playing on Putnam's small grass field, the Kingsmen proved to be difficult to put away.

'Putnam has some kids who can rip the ball and they're fast and athletic, which can create problems,' Slover said.

For the second game in a row, Lakeridge got on the board quickly. Josh Little put in a shot just a few minutes into the contest to give his team an early lead but the Pacers struggled to score for the remainder of the half.

Later in the half, Putnam received the ball deep in Lakeridge territory and earned a penalty kick which left the game tied at the half.

'We've given up about five penalty kicks this year and I think it's because our guys just commit to every ball,' Slover said.

The Pacers made adjustments at the break and they worked. Lakeridge scored three unanswered goals in the second half. Eric DeStefano broke the tie shortly after the half to give his team a lead it wouldn't surrender.

'It felt kind of like a playoff game where we had to switch some things around but the kids did a nice job with the changes,' Slover said.

Later on, Facundo Dipascuale corralled a throw-in and one-timed a ball into the corner of the net.

The Pacers then clinched the game on one of its prettiest goals of the season. Following a corner kick, the loose ball rolled to Jared Martin who hit a rocket from 35 yards away into the corner, putting the icing on the contest.

'That was one of those dream shots. It was still rising when it went into the net,' Slover said.

The win put separation between Lakeridge and Putnam and moved the team one step closer to clinching another league title.