By Kyle Gregory
It was a hard-fought game, but the Westlake boys soccer lost a 2-1 heartbreaker to Anderson Friday.
“We’ve been talking about the spirit of being competitive,” Westlake coach John Campbell said. “We’ve been lacking that, and I think tonight that’s what we can take from it. They’ve got a little bit more of a fire inside of them now … I’m happy with the way we played. We played well all-in-all.”
Neither team produced much offensive pressure in the first half. Anderson seemed to have the momentum in the early going, but once Westlake (5-8-3, 3-3-3 in district) scored, the Trojans lost a little steam.
The only goal of the half came courtesy of Westlake defender Matt Favaron in the 14th minute. Jacob Zodikoff floated a throw-in toward a gaggle of Chaps that had set up just in front of the Anderson goal. As the ball came down, Favaron leapt and smashed the ball with his head, powering it past the keeper.
From there, it was largely a back-and-forth half, with the occasional dramatic moment.
The biggest threat to Westlake came in the 29th minute. Anderson attackers were swarming around in the Westlake box, and the Chaps couldn’t break the ball clear. Westlake defenders Alex Lopez, Tommy Steinwell and Zodikoff stood their ground and eventually knocked the ball a few yards out. Rather than continue the bunched up assault, an Anderson player elected to shoot from a considerable distance, and the ball soared harmlessly past the net.
“That’s their game; they’re a high-pressure game; they’re tough to contain,” Campbell said.
Anderson came out strong again at the beginning of the second half.
As the minutes ticked away with no goals scored in the half, Westlake’s attack broke down, and the Chaps again found themselves playing a largely defensive game. Despite a stalwart performance, the Chaparral defense couldn’t hold forever.
“They started attacking us and we just tried to kick it up top, and we didn’t pass the ball like we were supposed to,” forward Manolo Gonzales said. “We need to focus on passing the ball across and to the weak side of the midfield to attack more.”
With 15:25 left in the game, the Chaps appeared to have defused yet another scrum in front of the net, and both teams began turning toward the opposite goal. A Trojan player managed to intercept the ball and squirt it past the Chaparral defense to a waiting Steve Aoudou, who had sneaked back toward the Westlake net. Provided with essentially a free kick, Aoudou beat diving keeper Jaime Alessio and scored the tying goal.
“They did a really good job of getting us out of our game plan and pressing us,” Campbell said. “We panicked and showed our age a bit and lost our composure from time to time and didn’t necessarily make the right decisions.”
With the game tied, both teams amped up efforts to score. The newfound pace favored Anderson, and the Chaps struggled to respond.
“We got into a little bit of a kickball game with them and that’s not our game,” Campbell said. “We can’t compete with speed and play over the top balls.”
An Anderson free kick with less than a minute remaining set up the final dagger. The kick found an Anderson striker, who launched the fall toward the top of the net. Alessio managed to stretch up and punch the ball clear, but, in an unfortunate turn for the Chaps, it bounced directly back in front of the goal. Anderson’s Carlos Huntley-Jiménez dove at the ball and speared it into the net with only 33 seconds left on the clock.
“I honestly thought when I tipped it that it was going to go all the way over and just … augh!” Alessio lamented. “It hit the post, and the guy was right there and just put it in. It happens. We lose. That was unlucky I think, but Anderson played hard and a loss is a loss – move on to next week.”
Since beating Austin High soundly Feb. 19, the Chaparrals have not won a district game in their last three tries. Despite that, they’re still floating around the top half of District 15-5A.
“We played really good,” Gonzales said. “It was unfortunate, the last two goals. We need to keep playing the way that we did tonight. Everyone gave all they could.”
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