The Robinson boys’ soccer team, in the midst of a rebuilding year, entered its April 7 match against Yorktown in search of its first victory.
Midway through the first half, it appeared the Rams would play the role of speed bump to the mighty Patriots, who three days earlier knocked off defending region champion Oakton. By game’s end, however, Robinson had shown the kind of resilience that could lead to future success.
Yorktown scored in the opening minute, twice in the first five minutes and led 3-0 in the 19th minute. Undeterred, the Rams battled back to tie the score at 3-all with a goal by Henry Lunario in the 72nd minute. However, Yorktown captain Joe McCreary answered in the 78th minute, lifting the Patriots to a 4-3 victory at Robinson Secondary School.
THE LOSS dropped Robinson’s record to 0-6-1, but head coach Robert Garza said he was pleased with the Rams’ resiliency.
“After the game, I told them you basically won this game,” Garza said. “Don’t look at the score, [focus on] the fight that you guys had in you. I’m very proud of you. … To me, in my book here, forget what the score says, we did win this because of the fight and we came back. Such a young team, still trying to learn to play with each other, was able to bring that fight back.”
“This is our rebuilding year. We graduated the whole team last year, as you can tell by our roster, a lot of freshmen and sophomores. Obviously, it’s been a struggle this year. The Oakton game to us, we felt like we cracked Oakton a little bit, and it’s been a step up for us. We’re starting to come together. It’s a process, but they’re coming together.”
--- Robinson boys’ soccer coach Robert Garza
Garza is in his second season as head coach of the Rams. He replaced Jac Cicala, a member of the Virginia-DC Soccer Hall of Fame who won four AAA state championships with the Lake Braddock boys’ program and took the George Mason University women’s team to the 1993 NCAA final. Cicala retired in 2012 after leading Robinson to the Northern Region title and Garza was hired after nine seasons at Mount Vernon.
Garza has spent his first two seasons implementing a style of soccer which focuses on speed and possession. Last year, Garza’s first with Robinson, the Rams finished 6-9-2, reached the Concorde District championship game and lost to T.C. Williams in the opening round of the regional tournament. This season, following a 4-2 loss to Oakton that dropped Robinson’s record to 0-4-1, Garza decided to go primarily with young players.
“This is our rebuilding year,” Garza said. “We graduated the whole team last year, as you can tell by our roster, a lot of freshmen and sophomores. Obviously, it’s been a struggle this year. The Oakton game to us, we felt like we cracked Oakton a little bit, and it’s been a step up for us. We’re starting to come together. It’s a process, but they’re coming together.”
While Robinson failed to win in its first seven games, the Rams managed to score 12 goals and showed signs of life against Yorktown.
“[The underclassmen are] the ones fighting and we saw right here,” Garza said after the Yorktown loss. “[We] definitely saw they have fight in them tonight.”
Yorktown improved to 5-1 with the victory, including a 1-0 win over Oakton three days earlier. The Patriots seemingly squashed the idea of a letdown against the winless Rams early in the match, building a 3-0 lead midway through the first half. Iain Holmes scored in the opening minute, and Justin Gonzales gave the Patriots a 2-0 lead with a goal in the fifth minute. Holmes’ second goal extended Yorktown’s advantage to 3-0 in the 19th minute.
“I’d say after we got that third goal we just kind of settled and thought it would be easier than it turned out to be,” Holmes said. “We settled down way more than we should have.”
FROM THAT POINT, Robinson slowly chipped away at the lead. Lucas Puranen scored in the 26th minute, cutting Yorktown’s lead to 3-1 at halftime. Noah Zorzi scored in the 47th minute and Lunario netted the equalizer in the 72nd minute.
“The level dropped, big time,” Yorktown head coach David Wood said. “… It’s tough sometimes, because we’ve been on a big-time roll of not giving up goals and scoring goals.”
Rather than letting Robinson come all the way back to win, Yorktown found a way to salvage the contest with McCreary scoring the game-winner shortly after returning from a yellow card.
“Credit to Robinson,” McCreary said. “They played a hell of a game.”
Garza praised the performance of sophomore defender Keyvan Montero and freshman forward Nicholas Short.
“They’re both the smallest kids on the team and they take the most hits and they deliver the most hits back and they have so much fight,” Garza said. “We use them as an example to the returning players --- bigger kids who are so scared to go in for a ball. These two kids are so small and they go in hard every single ball. They get the snot knocked out of them, they get right back up, they deliver a hit back and they keep going through. Those two are the future leaders of this program.”
Robinson faces Centreville at 7 p.m. tonight.