Strategy change helps Tigers get past Warriors
Late-season games offer opportunities to practice different skills for the Grand Junction High School soccer team.
Typically a possession-heavy team focused on short, quick passes up the field, the Tigers used their game against Central on Wednesday night to try long balls over the top of the Warriors’ defense.
The results were mixed, but Grand Junction cruised to a 3-0 victory at Walker Field. The Tigers (10-1, 4-0) were flagged offside 10 times, mostly in the first half, but also created a few clean runs past the Warriors (1-10, 0-4).
Grand Junction coach Jonathan Pando said he was pleased with the experiment.
“We were trying to catch (Central) over, right?” Pando said. “These are the games where we try to do some things that we don’t normally do, because we usually like to possess the ball all the way up and find offense from that. But Central did well on keeping that high line on defense. Clearly, we were caught offside a lot.
“Those boys know — there were a couple boys who were offside more than others. Their minds and the ideas they’re having are great, but they just need that hesitation to where they’re not offside. It’s something that we’ll work on this week.”
Garrison Corn opened scoring for the Tigers roughly 13 minutes into the game, banging a short shot in off the right post. That lead stood for most of the half as Grand Junction, despite the change in strategy, still maintained the majority of possession in the first half.
In the final moments before the break, Jose Avilla buried a put-back shot to put Grand Junction up 2-0 at halftime.
In the second half, Declan O’Gara found the ball at his feet in the middle box and tacked on another goal for the Tigers to cap the scoring.
On the night the Tigers honored their seniors, all three goal-scorers are seniors. Grand Junction starts nine seniors in total and Pando said they all play an important role.
“Every single one of them is very effective at their position,” Pando said. “It’s hard with the bench, because we have nine seniors, and all of those boys are definitely starters. Not because they’re seniors, but because of their skill level. They’re a huge help for the club and I’m grateful to have them.”
For Central, goalkeeper Alejandro Tarin was key. The senior made 21 saves, including several where he went one-on-one with an attacking Grand Junction player. The Tigers midfielders crashed to the net several times, but Central coach Doug Beach said Tarin was strong in net. “He was playing out of his head tonight,” Beach said. “He came in today and he said he was going to give it his all against a very good team and he sure did. He kept his composure and did all the right things.”
Although Central put only one shot on goal, its defense — beyond catching Grand Junction offside — created a handful of counterattack opportunities for the Warriors.
Beach credited his back line for its play against one of the best teams in the league.
“We have two experienced players in the back and they just run all of that,” Beach said. “Stuff we’ve been practicing and they’ve just got it down. They know when to step (forward) and when not to.”