By Ernest Stone
Certain people will see the glass half-empty, while others will see it half-full.
Yet, after Lowell boys soccer’s 3-1 loss to San Rafael in Tuesday’s three-half exhibition match, even a decisive person would have a hard time choosing which way to see the Cardinal’s upcoming season.
Entering the exhibition, the Cardinals had only one day of team practice, determining their final squad from a pool of 60 players on Friday.
“Our schools don’t have JV boys soccer,” said Lowell assistant coach Gene Vrana. “So we emphasize the importance of our younger guys playing, or else you have players disappearing for two years and trying to come back.”
Despite its lack of playing time, Lowell was able to match San Rafael’s ball skills.
However, the Bulldogs utilized their smaller frames and quickness to outrun the Cardinal defense.
“We definitely should have attempted more through balls,” said Bulldogs senior midfielder Bobby Conner. “I think the speed of our forwards is one of our team’s biggest strengths.”
One would have a hard time disputing Conner’s observations, as senior forward Carlos Diaz proved to be the difference in the game.
Diaz’s 26th-minute goal not only broke the 0-0 deadlock, but changed the Cardinal’s tactics.
“Early in the game we kept the ball on their side of the field,” said Lowell defender/goalkeeper Julian Enis. “He had a great shot and then we got away from what we wanted to do.”
Lowell’s back line proved to be one of the team’s strengths, as despite the Bulldog’s uneven possession numbers, the team managed only one offensive goal in the first two halves.
After an own goal in the 60th minute put San Rafael up 2-0, an end-to-end counterattack capped with a Peter Harrington goal brought Lowell within one.
It wasn’t until Diaz connected again in the 96th minute that Lowell surrendered the third goal of the game.
“We need better communication,” said San Rafael head coach Andres Orejuela. “We need to improve if we want to win in our tough league.”
While San Rafael outplayed Lowell, they never looked flat out dominant.
Such can be a good omen for Lowell, but if the big-bodied Cardinals are to have a successful season, they will have to tie their solid defense and run-and-gun offense together with improved midfield play.
“We play Mission next Tuesday,” said Lowell head coach Marcos Estebez. “It’s a huge game because Mission is solid and will give us a good look at how we stack up this year.”
Yet, Estebez understands that there are two ways to seeing everything.
“The bad thing is, Mission is solid and it will give us a good look at how we stack up this year,” Estebez said with a grin.