By Jeremy Balan
Washington High School’s boys soccer team may have lost some ground in the Academic Athletic Association X Division playoff race Tuesday, but it showed it can play with the league’s best.
The Eagles worked a 1-1 tie on the road against Lincoln, the Y Division’s top team, but due to Balboa’s 13-1 drubbing of Wallenberg, Washington fell out of the X Division’s final playoff spot with six games to play.
“We’re glad we got a point and we got a little lucky,” said Washington head coach Jose Carrera. “We have to prove ourselves to everyone, not just them. We cannot underestimate anyone, because every point is important.”
After a scoreless first half, the Mustangs (9-2-1) struck first in the 45th minute, when a long clearance from Lincoln defender Juan Carlos Velasquez sailed over the head of a Washington defender and was collected behind the Eagles’ back line by forward Nelson Mitchell Vasquez.
All alone with Washington goalkeeper Paulo Romero, Vasquez chipped the ball into the net to give the Mustangs the 1-0 lead.
But it didn’t take long for the Eagles (8-2-2) to respond.
A minute later, a Lincoln handball gave Washington a free kick just outside the penalty area.
Washington senior Misael Marin took the kick from about 15 yards out and bent a perfect strike around the Lincoln wall and just inside the right post to knot the game up at 1-1.
“He put it in a perfect spot,” said Lincoln head coach Kenyatta Scott. “He put it right where it needed to be and any coach would take a play like that. The result was spot-on.”
Washington had its share of scoring opportunities throughout, but it was Romero that preserved the tie for the Eagles. The senior had nine total saves in the match, including a sliding save in the 53rd minute on another Lincoln one-on-one opportunity.
“He’s an excellent goalkeeper,” Carrera said. “He gives me and all of the players a lot of confidence to play the rest of the game.”
While Washington felt relieved to get a point, the Lincoln sideline felt a win may have slipped through its fingers. Along with their scoring opportunities that didn’t pan out, the Mustangs had two goals negated by offside calls in the first half.
“There was no question [they were offside] and those are young mistakes that we, as a team, should not be making,” Scott said. “To be in that position — we did this to ourselves.”
Lincoln is sitting comfortably atop the Y Division, but the Eagles will likely be in a fight for the final spot in the X Division into the final week, and will get another stiff test Thursday in undefeated Lowell, which beat Washington 6-1 in the first game of the season.
Many key players were missing for Washington in that early match, including Romero.
“It’s important we win every game from now on,” Carrera said. “Our next game is going to be our biggest test. [In the first game against Lowell] we didn’t have our complete team.”