HERMISTON — A scoreless tie at halftime was nothing for the Hermiston boys’ soccer team to worry about Saturday. The Bulldogs were 2:1 favorites on ball possession against La Grande through the first 40 minutes and plenty of opportunities existed.
All it would really take was one good run, forward Pedro Cadenas said.
“Just do it better,” he said. “We’re trying to possess more of the ball, keep it for us and keep the other team tired before we get tired. That’ll open spaces.”
The payoff came as the match leaned right into Hermiston coach Rich Harshberger’s game plan. Firstly, the opposition can’t mount a scoring threat if they can’t touch the ball. Secondly, laser-precise passing will eventually open scoring lanes as the defenders stray from their discipline.
“That’s the key to our game right now, just holding the ball in that midfield,” he said. “I’ve been using the term ‘imposing our will,’ and that’s just really what the boys need to come out and do.”
The Bulldogs (2-0-1) wore down La Grande (1-2) on Saturday for a big second half, despite playing with a shortened bench themselves. There’s plenty of benefit in that kind of situation in the preseason, though. The coach got the remaineder of his players in the game after Cadenas’ second goal.
The group that doesn’t normally see a lot of minutes was able to take part in a sort of live try-out scenario for further playing time.
“It was good to see what they’re strengths are so I have a better idea of how to appropriately play them come league when I need their services,” Harshberger said.
Holding a 2-0 lead and feeling comfortable, Hermiston padded the gap with a pair of late goals. Bulldog goal keeper Ricardo Sotelo, who didn’t get much action in the net with the Dawgs holding possession on the other side of midfield all game, found his opportunity to help the offense. The senior captain launched a kick upfield that bounded over a pair of defenders toward the net. The long legs of forward Orlando Guzman helped the Hermiston player outrun the coverage.
With just the goalie to beat, Guzman tapped the ball around the diving keeper and followed the ball into the net.
Though Sotelo wasn’t challenged much by shots, he did make his presence known in the game with several touches. When the Bulldogs needed extra space to begin the push from their own end, Harshberger would holler at his players to drop the ball back to the keeper and use him as a 12th man for passing.
“We’re working on dropping the ball back more to me so when we have a lead like that we can open up the wings,” he said. “We can drop it back and send it out to the other wings and attack like that to catch them on their heels.”
Hermiston’s Alan Rodriguez caught the La Grande goalie on his heels with just seconds left in the contest. The midfielder sent a rocket from 40 yards out that twisted just over the keeper’s head and in for the team’s fourth goal of the game. As the Bulldogs celebrated the marksman’s effort, the referee blew his whistle to signal the end of the match.
Through three games, Hermiston has allowed only two goals while scoring 11.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.