On a sweltering Saturday afternoon, we kicked off against Hope International. Prior to this game, we knew would be facing our stiffest test yet. Hope had beaten us comprehensively the last time we had faced them. We started the game apprehensively and fell behind after only seven minutes when one of their midfielders skipped past two of our defenders before being brought down in the penalty area. The resulting spot kick was perfectly placed in the far corner beyond the outstretched hands of our goalkeeper. Following their goal, we continued to struggle to keep a hold of the ball. Several long balls were booted forward to no particular player. In general, you could sense an uneasiness among our team. Fortunately, given the high temperature, with about twenty minutes left in the first half, the ref stopped the game for a brief water break. During the short intermission, our coach effectively settled us down and we came back out with a stronger commitment to possess the ball better. As the half wore on, we slowly began creeping closer and closer to their half and even carved out a couple of half chances.
However, the turning point came when a couple of subs, one of which was myself, entered the field. Suddenly, our attacking players began linking up more effectively and this led to more opportunities. In one particularly promising play, I played the ball to Gerardo De La Torre on the wing who then whipped an inviting cross to the back post. Jesus Cabrera arrived perfectly only to see his header hit the arm of one of their defenders. To our utter dismay, the referee didn’t award us a penalty. Moments later, Hope scored a second goal on a swift counter attack that caught us completely off guard. We ended the half on the front foot. Delightful crosses were played in by Yauri De Groot and Aidan Gross only to see our forwards arrive a fraction too late. De La Torre also hit a low snap shot which their keeper at his near post. When the half ended, the scoreboard read Hope 2, Soka 0.
The second half begun in a similar fashion with us probing more into their half of the field. At this juncture in the game, we had finally started to string together several sequences of passes and looked far more comfortable out on the pitch. Yet, in the opening twenty minutes of the second half, we failed to break Hope down in the open play. It wasn’t until we received a corner kick at around the 75-minute mark when our fortunes changed. From the ensuing corner kick, De La Torre lobbed a ball into the penalty area which was met by a towering header from Harry Gilmer which flew into the top right-hand corner of the net. Buoyed by this goal, we began pushing for an equalizer only to see Hope score the crucial fourth goal of the game off a swift counter attack orchestrated down the left side of the pitch. This goal delivered a crushing blow to any aspirations we had of potentially tying up this game. The game ended with us losing to Hope 3 to 1.