Last year, when the Lake Oswego boys soccer team was trying to claw its way into the playoffs, a loss and a tie against Milwaukie kind of punctuated the Lakers' frustrating season. But this year has been a different story.
The Lakers have won both of their games against the Mustangs this season, including Monday's 2-1 victory. That improved Lake Oswego's TRL record to 4-1-2, which was good enough for third place.
Clearly, the Lakers are playing much better than last year. At times, they have looked almost unbeatable. But they've also had some opportunities that they've failed to take advantage of. In fact, Monday's margin of victory could have been even greater than it was.
'The evening was an array of wasted chances,' Lake Oswego coach Fraser Morrison said after watching a replay of Monday's game.
Morrison figures his team had at least five shots where the Lakers had only the Milwaukie goalkeeper to beat, and the goalie stopped each of the attempts. Overall, Lake Oswego had approximately 15 shots on goal, Morrison said.
The shooting percentage wasn't great, but the most important statistic was the final score and the Lakers had just enough goals to win.
Lake Oswego actually had to make a comeback to win this game. The Mustangs jumped to a 1-0 lead when they converted a penalty kick in the first half. The kick was awarded for a hand ball infraction that would have been hard to refute, Morrison said.
Fortunately for the Lakers, they got even when Jackson Ray made a penalty kick in the game's 25th minute. Milwaukie would have had a hard time arguing that call as well as Troy Hall was brought down in the penalty box while making a run on goal.
For a while, it looked like the Lakers might have to settle for a tie as the two teams played almost the entire second half without scoring. But Joseph Ginn broke that tie in the 89th minute when he scored on an assist from Ryo Asai, off a corner kick.
The Lakers have benefited from a number of big plays this season, but things got even better when Morrison made a slight adjustment to his lineup a while back.
'Good things came about when (Danny) MacNaughton moved to the backfield and Cale (Bigelow) moved to midfield,' the coach said.
Bigelow, a sophomore, was a solid goal scorer in youth soccer, so it was a bit of an adjustment for him to start his first varsity season on defense. He now seems to be more at home in the midfield.
'Cale is such a good player, you could put him anywhere and he would do fine,' Morrison said.
When Lake Oswego beat Lakeridge earlier in the year, it shocked most non-partisan observers. But now, all of the teams in the TRL know that the Lakers are pretty good.
'I've always known that we have good players,' Morrison said. 'I just want to make sure that they commit to playing well all of the time.'
After beating Milwaukie, the Lakers faced a three-game stretch of opponents that have given Lake Oswego trouble in the past.
First up was Wednesday's game against Putnam, the only league team that has beaten the Lakers this season. Next Tuesday is a home game against West Linn, which tied the Lakers in the first round of league play. That will be followed by next Thursday's rematch against Lakeridge, which will be hungry for revenge.
Unlike last year, the Lakers won't be forced to win all of those games just to make the playoffs.
'It's nice that we have our fate in our hands,' Morrison said. 'If we don't make it, we can only blame ourselves.'