TALENT — The Phoenix boys soccer team has a come-from-behind reputation.
Well, defending Class 4A state champion Newport gave the Pirates a little of their own medicine in a state playoff opening-round game Wednesday.
The Cubs scored the game-winner with just over two minutes remaining in the match and came away with a 2-1 victory at Hagler-James Park.
“Our modus operandi is getting goals late in the half and the game,” said Phoenix coach Dennis Flenner. “Today they did it to us.”
Newport (12-3-1), the runner-up team from the Oregon West Conference, advances to Saturday’s quarterfinals against the winner of Philomath versus Seaside.
“The last 15 minutes they had us on our end of the field,” said Flenner, in his 23rd year as Pirates coach. “We were contenders with them but we ran out of gas toward the end against a big, physical, fast team.”
Newport got the winning goal when speedy midfielder Jose Gonzalez got possession near midfield and dribbled up the center before finding Ricardo Gonzalez-Vasquez breaking toward the Pirates’ net. Gonzalez-Vasquez made contact with Giovanni Cook as the Phoenix goalkeeper was coming out to deter the threat and slipped a shot underneath Cook with 2:20 left in the game.
“I poked it past one guy and saw Ricky making a run,” explained Gonzalez about the decisive play. “He got his foot on it and the shot rolled under their goalie.”
Gonzalez, an all-league performer, was consistently penetrating the Pirates’ zone and creating opportunities.
“We had a tremendous game,” said Gonzales. “Our strikers did a good job dribbling past defenders and making runs.”
Phoenix (8-4-2) struck early with a goal by Gustavo Pinon off a rebound on Bryson Flenner’s shot just three minutes into the contest.
Flenner, the coach’s grandson, won a bouncing goal kick by Pirate defender Alex Salcido, made several nifty moves through the Cubs’ defenders and launched a low shot toward diving goalie Luis Reyes. The ball hit the side of the goal post, and with Reyes out of position, Pinon cleaned it up for a 1-0 Phoenix lead.
“(Newport) played with a lot of heart,” said Bryson Flenner. “Their one-touch passing was really good. They closed out the midfield and that caused us to get less attacks.”
The Pirates were on their heels for much of the first half, chasing down various attacks by Newport and defending corner kicks. Phoenix also had its moments with midfielders Sergio Urena and Randy Rodriguez making their presence felt.
Newport finally broke through with just under five minutes before halftime. This time Gonzalez-Vasquez forced the action with a strong run up the left side and just before the end line sent a crossing pass in front of the Pirates’ net that Drew Torres one-touched for his 21st goal of the season.
“The ball hit my shin guard,” said Torres. “It barely touched me and rolled in.
“We had a lot of attacking but we didn’t finish,” added Torres.
Newport third-year coach Ollie Richardson said the late goal in the first-half changed the momentum.
“We got the equalizer before the half and that gave us confidence,” said Richardson. “We’re extremely skilled on the ball and create a lot of opportunities. We had way too many missed opportunities.”
Much like the first half, Newport seemed to dictate tempo in the second period and Phoenix was able to thwart the attacks with defenders Salcido and junior Joe Navas playing major roles stopping the charges. Salcido left the game on a yellow card with about 27 minutes to play in the second half.
“They’re a pretty great team,” said Navas. “They hustled harder than us. They didn’t give us much room. They pressed us tight.”
Cook was forced to leave the goal mouth to come out and stop several Newport scoring opportunities. He was under pressure a lot from the nine corner kicks attempted by the Cubs.
“(Cook) helped keep us in the game,” said Flenner. “He made two beautiful saves. They had five or six good opportunities more than us.”
Flenner thought having 10 returning starters from last year’s state championship team gave Newport an edge.
“Their playoff experience came through In the last five minutes,” said Flenner. “We tried to elevate our game but they elevated even higher. We moved some numbers up at the end to put more pressure on. It cost us.”
Reach reporter Frank Silow at 541-776-4480 or firstname.lastname@example.org