As its scoreless streak and frustration level increased, Aberdeen’s road to state grew longer.
Although outshot by a 2-to-1 margin, Mark Morris scored twice in the final 21 minutes to upend the Bobcats, 2-0, in the opening round of the District IV Class 2A Boys Soccer Tournament on Saturday night at Stewart Field.
While the Monarchs (5-8-1) advanced to a district semifinal game against Greater St. Helens League champion Ridgefield, Aberdeen (10-5) hosts Evergreen 2A Conference rival Chehalis in a loser-out contest Tuesday night at Stewart Field. Ridgefield crushed Chehalis, 7-0, on Saturday.
The league runner-up Bobcats must now win three loser-out contests to advance to state. A possible silver lining is that all three games potentially could be at home. All district contests will be hosted by the higher-seeded team.
One certainty is that, home or away, Aberdeen needs to find the net with some degree of regularity. The Bobcats haven’t scored since their 1-0 victory over Tumwater on April 22 (although they did defeat Chehalis in a penalty-kick shootout two days later after a scoreless regulation and overtime periods).
They didn’t lack for opportunities to end the drought Saturday. Aberdeen outshot the Monarchs, 14-7, and had several other mid-range attempts blocked by Mark Morris defenders. Time of possession, particularly in the first half, favored the Bobcats by an even greater ratio.
“We do everything so well, from defending to positioning in front of the goal to passing,” AHS coach Larry Fleming summarized. “The only thing we can’t do is get the ball in the net.”
Mark Morris, in contrast, had only a handful of quality chances but converted two of them. Jose Torres connected on a penalty kick midway through the second half and set up Aidan Johnson for an insurance goal in stoppage time.
The PK proved to be the game’s key play.
Torres, who was clearly his team’s chief offensive threat in this contest, was taken down in the box in the 59th minute. While the senior got up limping, he recovered in time to take the spot kick himself and slotted it perfectly into the upper left corner.
Aberdeen stayed on offense for most of the remaining time, but launched only a couple of decent shots. Perhaps its most promising opportunity came with about five minutes left, when Cesar Corona’s low skimmer was scooped up by goalkeeper Tristan Simons.
Then, with the Bobcats committing additional players to the attack, Mark Morris got behind the AHS defense in the waning moments. Torres poked a short pass to Johnson, who powered a howitzer into the upper right corner. Bobcat goalkeeper Jake Myers had no chance on either marker.
Aberdeen’s biggest threat actually occurred in the opening seven minutes. Seth Caba’s 25-yard free kick, over the outstretched hands of a leaping Simons, rocketed off the crossbar and caromed at least 20 yards back.
Caba also had a solo run in the 20th minute on which Simons first blocked his shot and then dove to cover the rebound.
While acknowledging that the foul against Torres was probably properly called, Fleming lamented that the Cats weren’t given similar penalty kicks on plays in which Caba and Alex Barene were taken down in or around the box. A free kick (that was smothered by the Monach defense) was awarded in the latter instance and no call was made on the former play.
“Even with that, we probably had 10 other opportunities,” Fleming said. “We had a lot of shots that weren’t on goal or had no power.”
The contest drew increasingly physical in a second half that included a brief shoving match that resulted in yellow cards being given to players on both sides.
Caba, defenders Tavo Sanchez and Logan Lopez and Myers in goal were cited by Fleming for fine performances.