Diaz, Apollo soccer puts Beaverton away
If Monday night is any sort of positive omen, the Sunset boys soccer team is going to be just fine until the cavalry comes.
Down star midfielders Elijah White and Cole Rogers, both of whom are injured and out until possibly the postseason, Sunset garnered two goals apiece from senior Jose Diaz and sophomore Jullian Thuller to put away from Beaverton 4-1 at Beaverton High School on Monday.
White looked on from the BHS stands, a pair of crutches at his feet and his knee wrapped in a protective brace. The senior cheered as Diaz did his work in the first half, displaying the kind of fervent, inventive ability that can shoulder Sunset's load.
"I told (White) I was going to try and score for him and I did," Diaz said. "I felt unsure about myself before today, but after this game, I feel good. We expected it to be a tough game. Beaverton is a good team with good players. We gave it all we had on the pitch. I'm glad we got the 'W.'"
Diaz's first two goals were clear signs of good things to come for the Apollos. With White and Rogers sidelined, Sunset needs consistent sources of offense — finishers who govern the final third of the field. Insert the creative, playmaking Diaz who, all of a sudden, is being asked to take on more roles with his all-league comrades out. It's a duty not for the faint of heart or the average skill level. Thankfully for Sunset, Diaz has the goods to right the Apollos' ship until White and Rogers' anticipated return.
"It's a big weight on me, but I'm ready to carry the load and hopefully I do," Diaz said. "I have the responsibility to score and make the goals. Beaverton is a good team and there will be more good teams, so I expect to make more goals this season."
The first half was action-filled and firework-laced as is normally the case when Sunset and Beaverton lock horns. Diaz was utterly dynamic from his forward spot, collecting two spectacular goals in the first 17 minutes of the first half. First, Diaz beat a Beaver in a short foot race, accepted a sweet pass from Javi Urena which made the Beaver keeper come out to contest Diaz and try to pursue the ball. But the oncoming keeper did little to douse Diaz's demeanor and with a hesitation move going right, the Apollo forward beat the goalie and booted the ball home to go up 1-0.
Beaverton didn't bow, however. Beaverton's Josh Rubio corner kick to Nicholas Kimmi evened the game up at 1-1. The goal was set up by a Christian Hernandez blast that the Sunset keeper had to swat down and out of bounds, giving Beaverton the corner.
"We played well throughout the whole game, the result just didn't come out our way," Kimmi said. "We played really good possession soccer. I liked the way we passed, we just need to finish next time. We play out wide really well. Our midfield is really strong. We just have to have composure in the final third."
With the game even at 1-1, Diaz again put the Beavers on skates, taking an Eric Blair dish and planting the ball in the net after another sick move to give Sunset a 2-1 lead going into halftime.
The final 40 minutes of the contest were more Beaverton-based. Hernandez, Ramiro Espindola and AJ King were everywhere as the Beavers pushed their defense forward and tried to force the issue to try and get the game-tying goal as the second half unfolded. King and Espindola each got off a pair of shots from within striking distance, but Sunset junior goalie Kellen Gullion gallantly gloved each Beaver attempt to protect the Apollos' tenuous advantage. As Beaverton began to harass Sunset's backline, the Apollo keeper acted as the last line of defense, oftentimes facing the Beaver forwards one-on-one
"Without (Gullion) it probably would've been a tie," Diaz said. "He saved us."
Hernandez got a free run behind the Beaver defense and, as the crowd's decibel rose, Gullion dove and stuck his left hand out to knock the all-Metro forward's equalizer attempt away with five minutes to go.
Then, Thuller's goal with 3:35 to go ended any chance of a Beaver last-second score. And just 10 seconds later, with Beaverton's defense pushing up, Sunset stole the ball and passed to Thuller, who with no defenders in his vicinity, took the keeper one-on-one and kicked the ball between his legs to go up 4-1.
"We were just unlucky tonight," Kimmi said. "Sunset is a competitive team and you can tell they've been playing together for a while. We're building up to be a good team. But, it's a new team. We have some new players and some younger guys. We're just hoping to play well and get good results."