Tigers' hot start carries over into conference play
The Newberg boys soccer team's mission this season is to bring home the program's first-ever conference championship.
Brimming with confidence after posting a strong 4-2-1 record in non-league play, the Tigers saw an opportunity to jump start that campaign last week versus Three Rivers League contender Lake Oswego.
Thanks to Alan Rodriguez's second-half game winner, Newberg did just that with a 3-1 victory at home Sept. 28.
If that wasn't enough, the Tigers showed another characteristic of championship clubs — finding a way to win despite being outplayed — by rallying to beat Tualatin 3-1 on the road Monday night.
"We want to be conference champs," Tate said. "We believe we can. We believe we're good enough."
Newberg looked like a championship-caliber team in the early going against Lake Oswego, with an air-born senior Cole Alteneder volleying home a Geronimo Garcia-Lopez corner kick just 2:34 into the game.
The Tigers controlled play for much of the half, but perhaps got a bit lackadaisical down the stretch and surrendered a penalty kick, which Chase Cumberland coolly converted less than three minutes from the break.
Newberg set up all three of its goals by attacking on the wing, including creating the corner kick that produced the first goal, and the Tigers struck again just over 15 minutes into the second half.
Alteneder, who also stars on the NHS track team, used his speed to get into the corner down the righthand side, but instead of pressing into the box, he laid the ball back for Rodriguez. The senior struck the ball pure on the roll, launching a rocket of a shot that sailed over the keeper and into the side netting on the far side of the goal to regain the lead.
"My first thought was should I cross it in?" Rodriguez said. "I looked for my teammates, but there wasn't anybody up top, so why not go for it? The luck was with me and thank God I actually made it."
Although Newberg became a bit unglued and looked pretty shaky for a seven-minute stretch as the Lakers pressed for an equalizer, the Tigers settled down with about 10 minutes to go and began to control possession with its short passing game and kill time off the clock in large chunks.
Senior forward Nic Carsh then put a cap on the victory, racing past a couple of defenders down the left side before pulling the keeper out and deftly flicking the ball with the outside of his foot. It rolled across the goal mouth and banked in off the right post to make it 3-1 with 2:55 to play.
"We both knew whoever won was going to start a really good season," Rodriguez said. "Starting off by beating Lake Oswego is going to put fear in other teams. These guys hadn't lost a game, so it's a boost for us."
Newberg, however, didn't look like the same team Monday night at Tualatin and fell behind 1-0 by halftime.
"We (were) garbage in the first half," Tate said. "Our football was poor. We were erratic. Our shape was bad and we had too many gaps. We had a lack of discipline, players chased when they should have sat in. We just looked a mess."
Tate switched formations for the second half, going away from the 4-1-4-1 shape it typically plays on the road to a 4-2-3-1.
Having two holding midfielders helped settle things at the back and opened up the team's creative players to control the midfield and set up counter attacks.
Carsh and Lopez-Garcia turned one such counter into the tying goal, playing a little give and go that set up the latter for a shot from just outside the 18-yard box.
"We were running in and I turned to Nic, gave him the ball and he just kind of chipped it back and I volleyed it first time," Lopez-Garcia said.
The goal helped calm Newberg's nerves and with the defense turning away Tualatin's forays with relative ease, the contest appeared headed for a draw before Kyle Charbonneau intercepted a pass behind the midfield stripe and dribbled deep into Timberwolf territory to draw a foul.
Carsh looped the ensuing free kick into the box, where it eventually fell to the feet of Max Testa, who poked it past the keeper amid a swarm of players to make it 2-1 with 5:23 to play.
"They ran out of ideas and juice and we've got that something, that resilience," Tate said. "That goal that tied it was huge because it got us just a little bit of joy and belief. I would have taken 1-1 on the road and gotten out of here the way we played, so this is a bonus."
For the second straight game, Carsh added an insurance goal, taking advantage of a bouncing loose ball to attack the box, where he chipped the ball over the keeper and in with 1:46 to play.
"With Nic up front, he's always liable to cause havoc up front," Tate said. "He's a clever player."
With the pair of wins, Newberg (6-2-1, 2-0 TRL) sits alone in first, but can't afford to rest on its laurels with Tigard (4-3, 1-0-1) set to visit Loran Douglas Field at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4.
"It feels good," Lopez-Garcia said. "We can just recover, take a good break and get back on Wednesday. We need to start off strong from the top and we'll be good."