On a brisk Thursday evening, we kicked off our season at home against Providence Christian. Pride Night had created a great atmosphere at kickoff. Building up to the game, our coach warned us that our opposition would start the match with a lot of energy and intensity. As our coach predicted, Providence started the match fast. In the opening ten minutes, they passed and moved with purpose. Every 50-50 ball was met with a hard tackle from a Providence player. We were initially taken back by their early play. It took us fifteen minutes to settle down and to begin to string together effective combination plays in their half of the field.
However, at the 20-minute mark, one of our players got caught on the ball close to our goal and Providence ruthlessly punished this mistake. Their most dangerous player, after dispossessing us, played an incisive pass into one of their forwards who smashed a low shot past our onrushing keeper. Their goal seemingly injected us with a greater sense of urgency. As the half wore on, Yauri De Groot started receiving the ball higher up the field. In one promising play, De Groot dribbled past two defenders before slipping the ball to Leonardo Ortiz who saw his shot get cleared off the line. Towards the end of the half, Glen McKay played a pass into the feet of De Groot who swiveled past a defender before unleashing a powerful shot that narrowly missed the goal. We ended the half generating several nice sequences of play. At halftime, the scoreboard read Providence 1, Soka 0.
The halftime message was simple: Keep playing our game. Despite the scoreline, we all were confident that we would win this game. Unsurprisingly, we tied the game up seven minutes after the start of the second half. De Groot collected the ball on the right wing and burst past one of their defenders. He then found Jesus Cabrera in the penalty area. Cabrera’s resulting shot could only be parried by their keeper into the path of Gerardo De La Torre who had the simple task of tapping the ball into the empty net. We continued exploiting our advantage down their right-hand side and we netted a second goal five minutes later. De La Torre played the ball to De Groot in their penalty area. De Groot quickly shifted the ball past one of their defenders before placing a perfect shot into the side netting.
At this point the match, we were in complete control. Providence had no answers for our attacking play down their right-hand side. A couple of misplaced shots and unfortunate bounces prevented us from adding to our tally. It wasn’t until there were about ten minutes left on the clock when Providence started to cause our defense some problems. One inviting long ball over the top led to a collision between our goalkeeper Max Barainca and one of their forwards. The referee waved the play on despite the loud protests from the Providence players as well as their fans. One fan shook her blanket indignantly at the referee hoping such an act might sway his decision. He remained unmoved. With five minutes remaining, Providence managed to catch some of us out of the position which gave their left winger ample time to put in a dangerous cross. His cross was met firmly by one of their forwards only to see his strong header swatted away by Barainca. We were able to then see out the rest of the game and secure a 2 to 1 win over Providence. We walked off the field proud of the improved style of play we had put on display this game. Onto Cal Maritime!