Lions move to 5-0 through first half of league play

by: VERN UYETAKE - West Linn's Ryan Barber shields the ball during the Lions' 1-0 win over Lakeridge last week.You can't do much better than a 5-0 start in league and that's where the West Linn boys soccer team stands at the midpoint of the league schedule. With a 1-0 victory over Clackamas on Tuesday, the Lions locked up an unblemished slate through the first five games.

West Linn holds a four-point lead over second-place Lake Oswego and is ranked No. 6 in the state by the OSAA.

And yet coach Greg Bean still doesn't feel like his team has pieced together a truly complete game yet.

“We're still searching for a full 80 minutes, but I think the success we're having breeds more success,” Bean said.

West Linn is coming off a pair of tough 1-0 victories over Lakeridge and Clackamas and has been keyed in recent contest by its defense.

The defensive effort begins with goalie Zach Nelson who is starting to make a habit of coming up with at least one tremendous save per game.

“He's been the difference between us getting a 1-0 win or getting a tie,” Bean said.

The Lakeridge game Sept. 26 was one of the more eventful contests the Lions have played in all season. Both teams had opportunities and were adept at getting up and down the field quickly.

“It really could have gone any way. If you were watching it, it could have been a tie or a Lakeridge or West Linn win and any of those would have sounded right, but we're finding ways to grind out games,” Bean said.

The Lions jumped out to a lead just past the midway point of the first half. Lucas Evans made a nice run and was fed a ball from Ryan Barber. Evans then laid a pass to Jackson Brooke, who deposited the shot.

Lakeridge would increase its attack in the second half, sending another player forward and the West Linn defense continued to rise to the occasion.

West Linn generated some chances as well as it didn't let up on its attack either.

“The Lakeridge game was kind of a turning point for us. We were in the right spots. We're not incredibly aggressive going forward but our counter attack is really dangerous,” Bean said.

On Tuesday, West Linn found itself in a similar type of game with Clackamas. The first half was a bit sluggish for both teams and the Cavaliers had virtually no chances.

But, in the second half, the Lions opened by dominating the first 15 minutes of play.

West Linn put heavy pressure on Clackamas and it paid off when Barber drilled a shot from roughly 25 yards out that glanced off the keeper and into the net at the near post.

Once again, the Cavaliers responded by bringing more players forward and the West Linn back line responded, pitching its fourth straight shutout.

The Lions are playing with confidence but know there is plenty of work to be done if they want to reach their full potential.

“This team has so much chemistry, which is something we just didn't have at all last year. At this point we're trying to get the guys to believe that they have it in them to win a state championship and every game going forward is confidence building,” Bean said.

West Linn will begin its second run through the league tonight (Thursday) against an improved Oregon City team.

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