Before last year, the Hood River Valley boys soccer program had won its season opening game for four straight seasons. But in the past two years, the boys have found themselves behind 0-1 heading into the second game of the season.
This past Tuesday, HRV opened its 14-game 2018 schedule with a 2-0 loss on the road to Hillsboro.
“Hillsboro is a good team and they kept us on our heels defensively for much of the game,” said HRV boys soccer head coach Jaime Rivera. “We were able to get a few balls deep into a scoring area, we just missed opportunities to tap it in.”
The leader of this year’s HRV club is senior midfielder and captain Robby Running.
“We didn’t come out of Hillsboro with the result we wanted, but what I did see was some first-year varsity players, like Ivan Solano and Jaden Dubon, who did a good job of stepping up,” said Running. “I also saw the intensity and dedication that each player had to the team’s success, and although we might not be as skilled as past teams, we do have a great attitude and positive energy that can take us a long way.”
In the Tuesday opener, Solano, a freshman forward, and Dubon, a sophomore midfielder, were two of seven players who got their first ever start in the varsity lineup for HRV.
The other first-year starters were Adrian Lopez (senior, goal keeper), Ivan Carabantes (senior, defender), Fabian Magaña (junior, defender), Manny Arteaga (senior, midfielder) and Rafael Nakanashi (senior Brazilian exchange student, midfielder).
Whether it’s in the forward, midfield, backfield or goalie position, HRV has at least one new starting player inserted in all four areas on the soccer field this season, which was a huge factor in the turnover and communication problems HRV had in its opening loss versus Hillsboro.
“We got down 1-0 in the first few minutes, off a mistake and miscommunication, but we didn’t have a poor performance versus Hillsboro as everyone kept their head up and fought hard until the end,” said Running. “We now know what stuff we need to work on ahead of the next game and that’s chemistry and playmaking. Chemistry and playmaking will be cleaned up, and that will come with time as long as we’re continuing to work at it in practice.”
Despite having new players across the field, the team this year also has at least one familiar face in the forward, midfield and backfield areas.
In the varsity starting lineup, Running is accompanied by three returners from last year’s roster: Erik Pitones (senior, forward), Emy Perez (junior, midfielder) and Damian Charco (senior, defender).
HRV went into halftime versus Hillsboro down 1-0 and into the second half the Eagles remained within striking distance, but a second goal scored by Hillsboro towards the closing minutes of the match put this game out of reach for HRV.
“Our competitiveness is there, and the ball movement was solid, but we need to clean up our defensive responsibilities,” said Rivera. “We left spaces and gaps open after turnovers that led to Hillsboro putting us on our heels on the counter attack.”
Along with sharpening up defensively, Rivera explained that the boys positioning and finishing on the offensive end of the field need to also be better ahead of the next match.
“Our game is to be in sync offensively,” said Rivera. “That means we have to do a better job of positioning ourselves, so that we are in the right places when we do lose the ball. Also, against Hillsboro we had our chances, we just need to clean up finishing in front of goal.”
HRV ended with five shots on goal versus Hillsboro.
Next up, HRV will travel to Corvallis on Saturday, Sept. 8 (results unavailable at press time) to face Edgar Monroy, last year’s 5A state player of the year, and the Corvallis Spartans.
“We’re going to try and put them on their heels and make them uncomfortable,” said Rivera. “They have two or three really good players, including Monroy, so we are going to need to be ready to go.”