As in almost every sport, many times soccer comes down to matchups. Sometimes the best team has all of the right characteristics to play the perfect foil. Just as often, though, the team with a less-than-stellar record can have all of the ingredients to stir up an upset.
The latter was the thought process going through Mount Vernon boys’ soccer coach Bobby Garza when his fourth-seeded Majors drew Yorktown in the first round of the National District tournament Monday night.
The Patriots were an early-season favorite to take the district, but injuries and a lack of goal scoring had them struggling to a 1-3-3 start. But with the return of last year’s Northern Region Player of the Year Alex Herrara from an injured ankle, Yorktown has been playing inspired soccer, and it culminated in a 4-2 victory over Mount Vernon, a loss that ended the Majors’ season.
The Majors built leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in the first half, but couldn’t hold on thanks to some shaky goaltending and just plain bad luck. Yorktown’s third goal, scored by Matt Gordon off a Wynton Rose corner kick with under 20 minutes, proved to be the game-winning blow for Yorktown, in a matchup where the winner qualified for the Northern Region tournament and the loser packed things in for the spring.
“I’m kind of shocked, especially when you have a lead twice and then blow that lead twice, especially with [so little time] left,” said Garza after his team closed the season with a record of 6-5-2. “That third goal was the pin that popped the cushion.”
<b>ON THE BRIGHT SIDE</b>, the future is far from bleak, not when juniors Francisco Rodriguez and Efrain Diaz scored the team’s lone goals in the playoff defeat. Rodriguez, in particular, has been a revelation for the Majors this season, recovering from a broken leg at the beginning of the season to score five goals. Junior Dylan Bischoff added in an unheard of four goals from the sweeper position on defense.
But while the cupboard isn’t bare for next season, Mount Vernon will lose a good chunk of its offense with the graduation of senior John Wright. Wright was named first team all-district after scoring 17 goals and dishing out four assists. He finished the season with three hat tricks, including a four-goal game in a March 31 win over Falls Church.
“The kid has tremendous speed and a passion for the game,” said Garza, who added that Wright’s biggest improvement this year came from a newfound ability to change speeds.
Even though Wright was unable to generate a fitting end to his stellar campaign, Garza is optimistic about the future of the program, especially after a record 83 students tried out for the squad this spring. Still, like any team this time of year, the Majors would like to still be playing.
“Even though we didn’t accomplish our goals, we finished above .500 and we played with heart all year,” said Garza. “It’s one of my finest seasons at Mount Vernon.”