Saturday, September 26, 2015
Typically, the games where HRV teams play a Columbia River Conference rival are the more exciting contests on the sports calendar for both players and fans — a time of year when the season is in full swing and every matchup can potentially have playoff implications.
But last Tuesday night, Henderson Community Stadium was packed with HRV fans who had come out to see what was undoubtedly HRV’s most important non-league game of the season: a rematch with HRV’s 2014 5A state championship opponent, the Woodburn Bulldogs.
And just like in last year’s title game, the Eagles shut out the Bulldogs, although this time by a score of 1-0 (last year, the Eagles beat Woodburn 2-0).
And similar to the 2014 championship, Woodburn made HRV work hard for its victory, preventing the Eagles from scoring until late in the second half: a chip-in goal from HRV’s leading scorer, forward Andrés Baeza.
“They were two good teams that have a lot of hometown pride,” said HRV head coach Jaime Rivera. “I heard the Woodburn guys before the game saying, ‘Let’s do this for our city, for this town.’” I think that’s how good teams approach games like this, and we certainly did the same thing. We were looking to represent our school.”
Both teams struggled in the first half to get the ball out of the midfield area, with minimal scoring chances developing for either squad. Rivera characterized the pace of play as “defense soccer,” noting that the Bulldogs bottled up HRV and “stymied our midfield game and made us play up our wings.” At the same time, Rivera said the HRV’s “defensive back line was locked down, and didn’t allow (Woodburn) any breaks either.”
With no score for either team at the end of the first half, Rivera needed to make adjustments if his team expected to break Woodburn’s line.
“The second half we played a lot better; we were able to make some passing combinations to our center midfielders,” he explained. “We were finally able to build an attack that wasn’t just a horserace down the sideline.”
But it still wasn’t enough, despite the field opening up for HRV. The few scoring chances HRV had were well defended. It was the kind of game, Rivera said, where the Eagles needed just a little bit of luck.
With less than 10 minutes remaining in the match, HRV found what it was looking for when Woodburn received a yellow card for taking out the legs of an HRV player (Rivera could not recall who), setting up a free kick for Eagles captain Joel Garcia.
“I said to the guys, ‘Look, this is our chance,’” Rivera said.
And it was. Garcia’s kick sailed over the wall of HRV and Woodburn players and headed straight for the Bulldogs’ keeper, who got his mitts on the ball and then bobbled it right in front of Baeza — for Woodburn, probably the worst player to be near the ball. Baeza picked up the garbage and made Woodburn pay for its mistake, chipping one into the back of the net to make it 1-0.
HRV mobbed Baeza in celebration while Woodburn’s goalie collapsed to the ground in despair. Up in the stands, HRV supporters were doing their best to dislodge the stadium’s bleachers by raucously stomping their feet in approval.
“He’s got sort of a knack for being in the right place at the right time,” Rivera said of Baeza after the game. “He knows how to position himself.”
HRV keeper Marcos Cuevas got the clean sheet for the match, with eight saves.
On Thursday, HRV hosted LaSalle Catholic College Preparatory at the Westside Elementary fields. Rivera said going into the game that LaSalle had given HRV the most trouble of just about any team last year during the Eagles’ perfect season. The Falcons were the first team this season to hold HRV goalless, but LaSalle was also unable to score and the game ended 0-0.
With nonleague games over for the season, HRV will head into league competition with a 6-0-2 record and a No. 1 5A ranking. The Eagles will play the No. 28 Pendleton Buckaroos (2-3-1) Wednesday at 4 p.m. in Pendleton.