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Its deja vu all over again

Laker boys beat Lakeridge again while girls teams tie again
by: Vern Uyetake, 
Lake Oswego’s Bryan Williams, left, and Lakeridge’s Eric DeStefano, right, battle for a high-bouncing ball during last Thursday’s Civil War soccer game. Lake Oswego won the game 1-0, marking the second time this season that Lakers have beaten the first-place Pacers.

For all of those people who couldn't believe it the first time, the Lake Oswego boys soccer team proved again that it's capable of beating second-ranked Lakeridge.

Despite being outplayed for almost the entire game, the opportunistic Lakers registered a surprising 1-0 victory over the Pacers last Thursday. That followed an earlier 2-1 decision that gave Lakeridge its first league loss in five years.

After that first stinging setback, Lakeridge was anxious for a little payback in the rematch. In an effort to reassert their TRL supremacy, Lakeridge unleashed an offensive barrage that would have buried virtually any team in the state.

Rather than try to run with the potent Pacers, Lake Oswego coach Fraser Morrison decided to hunker down on defense. Morrison filled the goalie box with backs and midfielders, creating so much congestion inside that Lakeridge was forced to take most of its shots from long range.

That defensive wall proved to be just strong enough to keep the Pacers off the scoreboard. But, by committing all of his resources to the defensive end, Morrison seemed willing to settle for a tie against the Pacers.

The Lakers got much more than that, however, when Jackson Ray got behind the Lakeridge defense midway through the second half and then flicked a looping shot over Pacers goalkeeper Jason Dodson and into the open net.

Moments before Ray received the ball near midfield, Lakeridge's defense appeared to move forward in an attempt to catch Ray offsides. But the linesman claimed Ray was onside the entire time and the goal was allowed to stand.

'Not that one,' Morrison responded when he was asked if Ray was offside. 'There were a couple where we were blatantly offside, but that one, it was Jackson's pace that made him look as if he was offside.'

Lake Oswego had only one other decent scoring chance in the second half. The rest of the period was played at the other end of the Lake Oswego District field, where the Pacers were using the goal for target practice.

With the defense they were using, the Lakers were almost daring Lakeridge to fire away. It's an unorthodox way to play, but Morrison wasn't sure the Lakers could beat Lakeridge by sticking with their basic strategy.

'It's not like it was real entertaining soccer that we played,' Morrison said. 'But when you come up against players the caliber of the ones we were playing against … then you have to put numbers behind the ball.

'We tried to make life difficult for (Lakeridge). That's what we did in both games, and it worked.'

Coaches cringe any time they see an opponent stack its defense. They know that such a ploy will drastically change the complexion of a game, but Lakeridge coach Paul Slover wasn't complaining. In fact, in applauded Morrison's strategic efforts.

'My hat is off to Fraser and his team,' Slover said. 'They did what they needed to do, twice now, to beat us.'

In the first meeting between the two teams, Lake Oswego played more of an opportunistic style, where they used a change of possession in the midfield as a chance to score goals. This time, especially in the second half, Lake Oswego opted to hang back and wait for Lakeridge to unload an avalanche of shots.

'They let us outplay them,' Slover said in an incredulous tone.

Lakeridge nearly made the Lakers pay for using that strategy, too.

In the second half alone, the Pacers had eight shots that easily could have resulted in goals. Facundo Dipascuale had four of those chances, including once when he broke away from everyone and had a look from point-blank range. Unfortunately for the Pacers, Josh Little's centering pass arrived moments before Dipascuale did and the pass rolled harmlessly out of bounds.

Dipascaule also had a 10-yard shot in transition but that attempt somehow sailed over the top. He also had a 35-yard free kick that was dangerously placed but Lake Oswego goalkeeper Tommy Olen was well positioned for the save. Plus, Taylor Thompson had a 55-yard free kick that appeared to be perfectly placed but Olen was again in the right place.

'It's not like we played poorly. We just weren't able to put the ball in the back of the net,' Slover said.

By opting for his defensive strategy, it seemed that Morrison was willing to settle for a tie. To get anything more than that was obviously a big bonus.

'In all honestly, if you had said to me at the beginning of the season … that you're going to have a win and a draw against Lakeridge, then I'd say, 'Yeah, I'm a happy man,' ' Morrison said.

No matter how you slice it, the Lakers accomplished what most other teams can only dream of when they beat Lakeridge twice in one season.

'It's about (the Laker players) channeling their energies in the right area.' Morrison said. 'It's allowed people to start recognizing Lake Oswego soccer for all of the right reasons … And it makes my job easier when you have good players. They make me look better than I am.'

Meantime, Lakeridge's woes continued on Tuesday when the Pacers had to settle for a 3-3 tie against Clackamas. Now, the Pacers must beat Milwaukie tonight (Thursday) to win the TRL regular-season title.

But, if Lakeridge loses to Milwaukie and Lake Oswego beats Clackamas, the Pacers and the Lakers would wind up tied for first. Lake Oswego would then win the tiebreaker because of the two victories over Lakeridge.

On the surface, it seemed unlikely that Clackamas would have any kind of a chance against Lakeridge. But the Pacers were playing at a disadvantage because of a knee injury that has left Dodson, the goalie, severely hobbled.

Unfortunately, the Pacers don't have a backup goalkeeper. So, Dodson has been forced to play his team's most recent games despite being less than full strength.

'We don't think he's going to do any more damage to his knee,' Slover said. 'But the problem is that sometimes the pain is too much.'

With Dodson's limited mobility, the Cavs managed to score some goals that the keeper probably would have stopped under normal circumstances. Even then, Dodson still managed to stop a penalty kick, which is a tough thing, even for a healthy goalie. But Dodson wasn't able to play up to his usual level the rest of the night.

'If he's his normal self, we win this game tonight,' Slover said. 'He's doing the best he can, but he's not 100 percent.'

So, now it's questionable whether Dodson will be available for tonight's game. And if he does play, how effective will he be?

'He's still good enough that he can make (some of the) saves,' the coach said. 'But there's going to be times that he just can't get to a ball … It's just a frustrating situation.'

The Pacers averted another potential loss by converting some of their chances on offense. This time, Dipascaule wound up with all three of Lakeridge's goals.

One of those goals came on a penalty kick after Eric DeStefano was taken down on a run through the goalie box. Dipascaule also scored on a corner kick, off an assist from Will Marks, and he converted a free kick from 23 yards out.

Overall, 'we played well for most of the game. But we made mistakes,' Slover said.

Also, it didn't help to have one of the top goalies in the state playing injured.