Falcons blank the second-ranked Pirates 4-0

The La Salle Falcons continued to carry on school tradition on Nov. 13, as they knocked off second-ranked Phoenix 4-0 in the semifinals of the 2012 Class 4A high school boys soccer playoffs.

The win advanced the eighth-ranked Falcons to the state final for the 12th time in the past 22 seasons. La Salle won state titles in 1994, 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2009, and the Falcons were state runners-up in 1991, 1993, 1997, 2003, 2005 and 2006.

“We have been on an amazing ride so far throughout the playoffs, but we are not done yet,” La Salle assistant coach Derek Ray said, following the convincing win over the shell-shocked Phoenix Pirates. “We have one more game to go, and we are looking forward to competing on Saturday. We know Philomath comes from a very tough conference, and we know they will be a tough challenge and want to win as much as we do. We look forward to a battle for the title.”

The 4-0 semifinal shutout of Phoenix was no small feat. It was the most goals the Pirates had allowed an opponent all season — They’d allowed 15 previous opponents an average of 1.1 goals a game — and it was only the second time this season that the Pirates had been shut out.

The Falcon win snapped a 12-game Pirate win string. Heading into the semifinal contest, Phoenix’s only blemishes on an otherwise perfect record came on Sept. 12, when the Pirates battled to a scoreless tie with Class 6A North Medford, and on Sept. 25, when they lost 2-1 to Class 6A Grants Pass.

The Falcons used team play on a corner kick to earn their first goal in the 24th minute. David Lillie brought the ball down on a deep corner and passed it to Brayan Rodriguez, who beat the keeper near-post.

Lillie made it 2-0, scoring just before the half.

Ray described the score: “We got an indirect free kick in the 18-yard box off a dangerous play call. David organized the play on the spot. He set a wall of players in front of their players to screen the ball. Greg Manzano passed David the ball, who put it past the keeper, just inside the post.”

Dakota Eisel all but clinched the win 16 minutes into the second half, scoring his seventh goal of the playoffs.

Lillie played the ball to Dakota, who ran onto it and finished just inside the post.

Greg Manzano put the icing on the cake, putting a fourth ball in the net just 10 minutes later. Eisel passed to Manzano near the corner, and Manzano half-volleyed the ball just inside the far post.

It was the ninth shutout of the season for La Salle keeper Dylan Tran.

“Dylan was great in-goal, punching balls in the air and not letting their players get quality chances,” Ray said. “Our defense also played extremely well. Peter Nguyen, Kevin Luyamba, Ian Hamel and Stephan Malin make it very tough to score on us. We played great team defense all over the pitch as well....

“Either David Lillie or Dakota Eisel were involved in every one of our goals. They played well, as usual.”

With the loss, Phoenix finished the season with an overall record of 13-2-1. It was the second year in a row that a Tri-Valley Conference team had rained on the Pirates’ parade in postseason. Molalla topped Phoenix 1-0 in last year’s state final.

The win advanced La Salle (16-2-0) to Saturday’s state final with fourth-ranked Philomath (12-2-3). The Warriors upset top-ranked McLoughlin 3-2 in overtime in the semifinals.

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