The Vashon Pirates boys’ soccer team began State playoffs on its home field against the Bridgeport Mustangs on Tuesday, May 15. The Mustangs, the lowest seed in the bracket, beat a heavily favored Cashmere team to earn the game against the Pirates.
From the outset it was clear that Bridgeport would play a direct, over-the-top offensive game with the hope of catching the Vashon defense off guard. They also played aggressively at mid-field, consistently disrupting the play of Fin Oswald and Fredy Guitierez with dangerous ankle tackles and off-the-ball fouls.
Vashon controlled play early on and in the fifth minute, Oswald sent a pass through the Mustangs’ defense to the feet of Tommy Delargy, who confidently slotted the ball into the net, giving Vashon the only score it would need. In the first half, Vashon controlled 52% of possession, completed 143 passes compared to 76 for the Mustangs, and managed four shots on goal to the Mustangs’ two.
Vashon’s possession fell in the second half, and the game evened out. The Pirates managed only one shot on goal to three by Bridgeport, and completed only 46% of its passes. Bridgeport lacked an effective striking attack, and the Mustangs’ shots on goal did not threaten goalkeeper Richard Rivas. As the second half advanced, the Mustangs began to foul with abandon, earning two yellow cards. There was noticeable relief on the Vashon bench when the final whistle blew, and the Pirates limped off the field with a hard earned win and the bruises to show for it.
The Pirates traveled 170 miles to Connell, Washington, for their quarter-final match on Saturday, May 18, against the Eagles.
Vashon got off to a fast start, putting immediate pressure on the Eagles’ defense. Mid-fielders Oswald, Guitierez, Will Hennessey and Bellamy Cox were able to control possession and put the Eagles under repeated threat with great runs by Jacob Heuschert and Delargy.
The Eagles’ counter attacking strategy initially caught the Pirates’ defense off guard, but their discipline held, and Jeremiah Bogaard and Elliot Eades were able to feed wide defenders Ronny Torres and Chris Fontina to begin offensive possessions.
In the 19th minute, Heuschert sent in Vashon’s fourth corner kick toward the far post; Oswald headed the ball down in front of the goal, and Hennessey lashed the ball into the net to give Vashon a 1-0 lead.
The Eagles began dropping 11 players back on defense, hoping to dribble forward and pop the ball over the top of Vashon’s defense when they got possession. This created a couple of nervous moments for the Pirates’ defense, but Rivas protected his goal with confidence. This broke down in the 22nd minute when an Eagles’ player split the defense and was left with only Rivas to beat. Rivas rushed off his line to the edge of the box and slid just as the Eagles’ player tried to chip the ball past him. Rivas swatted the ball away and defused the threat.
In the 37th minute, Oswald controlled the ball at mid-field, passed forward to Delargy, who dribbled to the top of the Eagles’ box. With the defense collapsing on Delargy, he passed to Oswald, who found space and sent a pass back to Delargy, who tucked right and slotted the ball into the net at the far post, giving Vashon a 2-0 lead.
The Eagles’ offense began pressing Vashon in the last minutes of the first half. Guitierez and Torres made some great defensive plays, stopping potential Eagle breakaways. In the waning seconds of the half, Connell clawed back a goal after a poor clearance died at the feet of an Eagles’ player, who easily shot the ball past Rivas at the far post. The first half ended with Vashon completing 192 passes to Connell’s 67 and possession favoring Vashon 58% to 42%. Vashon had six shots on goal to three by Connell.
Vashon’s dominance evaporated in the second half. The Eagles came out playing the long ball over the top of the Vashon defense hoping for the break away. The action was fast and back and forth with the Eagles creating a breakaway header in the 45th minute that Rivas saved. Vashon’s possession dropped to 53%, and passes dropped to 104 for Vashon to 90 for the Eagles as Connell pressed play. Connell had a total of eight shots, three on goal, compared to Vashon’s five shots, two on goal.
In the 60th minute, Delargy took a hard shot from 30 yards out. The keeper stopped the shot, but spilled the ball. Heuschert charged in and collided with the keeper, earning a yellow card for his efforts. Thereafter the game took an aggressive tone with the Eagles knocking the Pirates off the ball and off their feet, and Vashon seemed to lose a bit of focus. After an easy save by Rivas, the Pirates advanced the ball to Oswald, who was chopped down in the Eagles box for an apparent penalty kick. The referee allowed play to continue. The Eagles collected three yellow cards in the final 10 minutes of play, allowing Vashon to kill time. Rivas made a save off an Eagle header in the 87th minute. Vashon slowed amid the frantic play by the Eagles, maintaining composure through extra time, and had two scoring opportunities before the referee called the game. The Eagles collapsed to the turf, and the Pirates raced to their bench in jubilation with their 2-1 win.
For the second time Vashon will be playing in the State semi-final game at 2 p.m. Friday, May 24, at Sumner’s Sunset-Chevrolet stadium. Their opponent will be Lakeridge from Spokane. A win will put the Pirates into the finals at the same venue at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 25. A loss will put them in the third place match at 10 a.m. at Sunset-Chevrolet stadium.
— Johnathan Kott is the father of a Pirate player.