BOARDMAN — Seconds after Jose Amaya struck a shot from the left corner of the goal box, a ball that would slice into the net for a goal, the Riverside Pirates mobbed the junior as he sprinted back to midfield. The Pirates’ soccer team was already ahead of Pleasant Hill before the score, but they knew a Billies’ comeback was out of the question now.
Riverside was able to dribble through the next 40 seconds without incident as the Pirates won their first-round playoff match 3-1 against Pleasant Hill on Tuesday in Boardman. Riverside advances to the quarterfinals of the Class 3A/2A/1A boys’ soccer state tournament and will play Westside Christian at home Saturday.
“We want to win that championship again,” he said, referencing Riverside’s undefeated title run in 2011. “We have to work hard and today was hard work, too.”
Pleasant Hill (6-8-1) was the aggressor through the first half. The fourth-place squad from Special District 3 out-shot Riverside with balls on goal 5-3 and forced the Pirates’ freshman keeper Flavio Betancourt into several difficult saves.
But Riverside coach Carlos Velasco found the button to switch off the Pleasant Hill Billies’ attack. The coach talked to his defensive players at half, when the score was locked at 0-0, about sticking close to Billie midfielder Trystan Pierzina.
“We tried to stay on him longer because he was the one moving the whole team,” Velasco said. “He make all the plays. Just guard him, and that worked well in the second half.”
While Riverside had tried pressing the ball up the right flank during the first 40 minutes, it started with an approach from the left after intermission. Then the Pirates took the first lead of the match in the 43rd minute.
Alexis Mendoza carried the ball up the left line of the goal box and lifted a pass toward the middle. Rene Ramos was there to punch the ball in with a swift header.
More than 25 minutes would pass before either team tallied a goal again, but then Francisco Velazquez finally found net. The forward had sent rockets toward the Billies keeper all match, some shots flying wide with others getting knocked down in front, but when a hand ball gave the Pirates a direct kick from about 25 yards, Velazquez drilled it home in the 69th minute.
His goal would become the game-winner after Pleasant Hill midfielder Jose Harris scored on a direct kick following a penalty in the 76th minute.
“It was a good feeling putting that icing on the cake like that,” Velazquez said of his goal. “It’s always a dream to make that finishing goal.
“(Jose’s) was then the top and the cherry. It was a good one.”
The Pirates ended the match with a distinct advantage in the offensive categories. Eight second-half shots on goal outnumbered the Billies’ total from the match (seven) and Riverside took three times as many corner kicks — though neither team made much of those opportunities.
The next opponent for Riverside, which won the Special District 4 championship with an 8-0 record in league play, comes from Lake Oswego. The Westside Christian Eagles (8-7-2) took down Blanchet Catholic in upset fashion behind penalty kicks on the road Tuesday.
Riverside is a No. 2 seed while the Eagles are a No. 6, the lowest seeded team left in the bracket.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.