Wednesday’s Central California Athletic League showdown between Turlock and Pitman High varsity boys soccer teams was a battle of last year’s co-champions, and the play lived up to the hype following a dramatic 2-2 draw in their first meeting of the year from the Pride’s field.
“I am really disappointed in how we played. We got off to a slow start and Pitman took it to us, outplayed us, outshot us, controlled the middle and beat us on the outside. To be honest, we are lucky to get out of here with a tie,” said THS head coach Doug Sperry.
“I don’t want to discredit Turlock because they have a good team too, but personally as a coach I thought we had 60-40 at least with possession,” said Pitman head coach Memo Ramirez. “They had a little luck, but it comes in part with soccer. Luck is part of soccer and I thought they had that in their first goal and that is what determined the momentum for them. But other than that, both of the teams did well and I am proud of our players.”
With the draw, Pitman continues its four-game unbeaten streak and have not lost since Dec. 19 when they fell to Central Valley, 4-0.
Their record following the win over Turlock is 6-6-1 overall and 2-0-1 in league.
Turlock’s overall record following the draw is 12-3-1 and 2-0-1 in the CCAL.
“I thought we were ready, just collectively the energy was low and we didn't move the ball like we normally do and lost 50-50 balls, just didn’t have it today,” said Sperry.
One reason for the Bulldogs’ struggle was Pitman’s Felipe Lopez and his ability to control the pace of the game.
The center midfielder has become a staple on the team over the last two seasons, more importantly last year when they lost just three games and finished the year ranked No. 25 in the state and Sac-Joaquin Section Division-I semifinalists.
Pitman controlled possession on Wednesday and they made it clear early on with their chances, including a Lopez one-on-one situation where the ball failed to hit the back of the net.
Then a minor miscue on a long free kick from Eduardo Garcia gave Luke Redman the ball inside the penalty box where he finished it and put the Bulldogs up 1-0 by the 23rd minute.
Lopez struck a shot on goal in the 31st minute, but the goalkeeper made a jumping save.
About seven minutes later, Pitman again flirted with an opportunity when Luis Manriquez made a run on the attacking third and sailed a cross inside the box that was leaning towards falling into the back of the net. The ball was cleared with multiple defenders in the area.
About one minute later at the 39th, Pitman tied the game at 1-1 when Daniel Galdamez found the back of the net off a corner kick.
Pitman came out in the second half and immediately pressed on offense until Luis Robles scored the Pride’s second and final goal at the 51st minute and took a 2-1 lead.
With about 14 minutes remaining in regulation, Garcia of Turlock found the back of the net to tie the game at 2-2.
Despite the seven minutes of stoppage time, nobody was able to score, with Pitman creating three chances in the final three minutes of regulation.
“Hopefully, this will be an eye-opening experience for us. We have to come out and play our best if we wish to win, and moving forward, hopefully, we can do a better job,” said Sperry.
“This is what counts, and we will try to always possess the ball because that is usually the team that has the best chance at winning and we tried today, and we went for the win,” said Ramirez. “Definitely not done, this is just another game for us since we have six more, and so we are going out there to take everything. I am here for us to take everything. I hope they don’t have the same luck next time we play them because we will be more than ready.”
Turlock and Pitman will square off in the regular season finale from Joe Debely at 5 p.m. Feb. 12.