The Lions get goals from Noah Gitler and Abdul Ali, improve to 2-0-1 in fall play

TIDINGS PHOTO: MILES VANCE - West Linn's Kyle Gregg (right) challenges Sunset's Ethan Dull for the ball during the Lions' 2-0 win at West Linn High School on Thursday.The Lions defended their home turf.

The West Linn boys soccer team, hosting Sunset in non-league action at West Linn High School on Thursday, came out fast, scored twice in the first half and used that explosive start to beat the Apollos 2-0.

"Before the game, in the locker room when we were meeting, I could tell the energy was good. Everyone was having fun, (we were) positive, we were all in the right mindset," said West Linn senior midfielder Abdul Ali, who scored his team's second goal on Thursday. "Coming out to warm up, we kept it sharp, kept the energy up and it showed throughout the first 10 minutes. We got a quick goal and then we got another one right after it so it was just coming out mentally prepared."

"I don't feel like they came out slow, I feel like we came out fast on them," said West Linn junior midfielder/defender Michael Phillips. "I feel like we put the pressure on them and made them mess up. It was more our pressure and determination to get that win that give us the energy and passion for this game."

With the win, the Lions improved to 2-0-1 in non-league play, while the Apollos lost for a third straight time and fell to 1-3-0.

"We just came out slow and that really let them get going. It just took us a while to respond to it," said Sunset senior defender Liam Buckley. "In the first half, West Linn was winning all the second balls. We were winning some of the headers, but they got everything after that."

"I'm just thinking about what we need to do to get better, to make sure we're ready for the next game," added Sunset junior midfielder Ellis Harwood.

As to West Linn's fast start, the Lions got a pair of corner kicks in the game's first four minutes, a near score by Ali 11 minutes into the contest — a dangerous shot knocked away by diving Sunset goalkeeper Kellen Gullion — and its first goal just two minutes after that.

West Linn junior forward Noah Gitler got that first goal when the Lions sent a pass into a crowd of players in front of the Apollos' goal and Gitler found room to knock it home with his right foot with 27 minutes, 53 seconds remaining in the opening half.

While the Apollos had been knocked back on their heels at the start of the game, they began to control the ball more after the first 15 minutes and created a shot by junior Julian Buist-Thullier — he missed wide left — and minutes later, a corner kick from Kevin Gan.

The Lions controlled the final 15 minutes of the half, however, creating another five shots on goal and another four corner kicks. While Gullion and the Apollo defense stopped most of those, West Linn broke through for its second score with 8:09 to go in the first half. West Linn freshman Luke Tinsley started the scoring play when he sent a corner kick from the left side into the Apollos' penalty box and Ali right-footed it into the goal for a 2-0 Lions' lead.

Play was much more balanced in the second half, with the Apollos generating a trio of shots in the final 40 minutes, while the Lions had five. Buckley fired off the first shot of the half less than a minute into the period, and Buist-Thullier notched his team's first shot on goal (stopped by West Linn sophomore keeper Caden Kesselring) 13 minutes later.

While neither team scored in the second half, the Apollos created the best chance of the period when Buist-Thullier angled a pass to his left across the Lion goalmouth and Buckley hit a hard shot from two yards out that missed wide right with 10 minutes to go.

"We did have some good chances, finally," Buckley said. "I had one that I should have put away there at the end and Julian had a couple, too."

The Lions, still safely ahead at 2-0, had their best chance of the second half when senior Garrett Jackson missed just over the top of the Sunset goal from point-blank range with four minutes left to play.

"We definitely, I feel, have a lot more chemistry this year and I feel like that's a big part of our game," Phillips said.

"Our seniors have really jelled over the last few years," Ali added. "We have a lot of returning guys so it's that chemistry and bringing in the young guys who are really talented and making them feel included."

Next up, the Lions play at West Salem at 7 p.m. Tuesday, at David Douglas at 7 p.m. Thursday and host Grant at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 18. Sunset hosts McKay at 7:30 p.m. Monday, hosts Newberg at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and plays at West Salem at 7 p.m. Monday.

Contact Sports Editor Miles Vance at 503-330-0127 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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