It was supposed to be a match between the top boys soccer teams in the Columbia River Conference, No. 3 Hood River Valley and No. 8-ranked Hermiston.
By the end of the contest Hood River made it clear there was just a top team.
After losing to the Bulldogs in Hermiston earlier this season, a motivated HRV squad (7-4-1, 4-1 CRC, OSAA No. 3) blew Hermiston (9-1-2, 3-1-1 CRC, OSAA No. 7) off the pitch with a convincing 4-0 victory.
“It was good to see them first off getting ready like they wanted to win today,” said HRV coach Jaime Rivera. “They prepared in practice really hard to get where we are at now. We saw it coming in practice.”
Rivera said the Eagles were motivated not to repeat their mistakes from their match at Hermiston earlier this month when they saw their offense bog down in a 2-1 loss.
“The No. 1 thing we were looking to do was to not play how we did against them in Hermiston,” Rivera said. “We fell into their style of play and today we kept things at a constant and we played how we needed to play.”
The Eagles made it clear to their coach they didn’t intend to do that practically from the opening whistle.
While Hermiston put pressure on in the opening five minutes, forcing HRV keeper Alonso Mendiola to make a pair of nifty saves, the Eagles quickly gathered up all the momentum.
Giovanni Magaña didn’t score a goal on the day, but he gave the Hermiston defense fits the entire game, and came up with an assist on one goal and helped create two others.
In the 10th minute he broke past a Hermiston defender and was tackled from behind just outside the penalty area.
The play drew a yellow card on the Hermiston defender and set up a short free kick from the left side of the box by Camiel Buursma.
The exchange student from Holland curled the kick around the right side of the Hermiston defensive wall and just inside the far post to put the Eagles on top.
The Eagles pushed for a second goal while Hermiston tried to counter for an equalizer. However every time the Bulldogs did get through the HRV defense, Mendiola was there to turn them away.
In the 20th minute the Eagles doubled their advantage when Jaime Frias cleaned up a ricochet in front of the Hermiston goal and put it in for a 2-0 lead.
Ten minutes later Magaña helped to generate a third goal when he split two Hermiston defenders and drew a handball call on a third who jumped in front of his shot.
Jose Muro easily converted the ensuing penalty kick for a 3-0 Eagle lead.
Following Muros’ goal the Hermiston attack crumbled. Even with HRV playing most of the second half a man down due to yellow card accumulation, the Bulldogs were still unable to get very little going offensively.
The Eagles got the dagger midway through the second half when a Magaña corner kick wound up at the feet of Chris Cardenas, who blasted it into the net to provide for the final scoring margin.
“We played calm,” Cardenas said of what made the difference for HRV this time opposed to their last match against the Bulldogs. “Last time we played their game and here we made them play ours.”
Even when Hermiston had a chance to get on the board in the waning moments, the Bulldogs still could not get anything to go in their favor.
In the 77th minute a Hermiston shot bounced off the left post as Mendiola dove to stop it. As the ball bounced back to a Hermiston forward, Mendiola recovered and denied a shot from point-blank range to keep his clean sheet.
The Eagles now head to The Dalles Tuesday to try and nail down the league title. An HRV win or a Hermiston loss or draw to Pendleton could give the Eagles the title.
“As far as we’re concerned we still have another huge game,” Rivera said.
TDW is coming off a tie against Hermiston and a win against Pendleton, and will likely be highly motivated to play spoiler to their arch-rivals.
“We’re going to have to keep playing hard and playing our best,” Mendiola said.