Pioneers, Indians battle to 2-2 draw
Perhaps the one nice thing about a tied sports game early on in a season is that neither side really feels dejected afterward.
That is, unless one team completely gave up a victory, which wasn't the case Friday night in Nokesville.
Patriot (0-2-1) and Gar-Field (1-0-1) battled to a 2-2 final score during the varsity boys soccer game that featured two goals from Pioneers' senior Majin Acosta and two from William Gonzales.
Despite a couple of close calls during the two five-minute overtime periods, neither team ultimately prevailed, though Patriot's Ismail Iberkak came about as close as possible to ending it.
With less than 2 minutes remaining on the clock during the first overtime, the junior fired a shot from about 10 yards out that ricocheted off the crossbar to goalkeeper Jamar Parker's right side, hitting the goalie in the chest and bouncing back toward Iberkak.
Pioneer fans could only groan in unison at the shot that came within an inch of giving Patriot its first victory of the season.
Teamwork from Acosta and fellow senior Matt Kim gave Patriot the opportunity to even play competitively in the first place, as Kim set up Acosta on his first goal after a give-and-go between the two.
"I found him on his outside foot and he touched it in," explained Kim about how the two set up the shot.
It came at a needed moment in the first half given Gar-Field's Gonzalez struck first to put the Indians out ahead 1-0.
According to the senior, he noticed after a pass that Patriot's defender "was on his back" as he worked the ball around him and that the goalie set up his own defense "too much on his right," leaving open the left side of the net for a top shelfer.
Parker mentioned that the goal helped inspire the defense.
"It gave me the (mentality) that I had to keep up," he said, adding that he wanted to "play faster" and "much more aggressive."
Gonzalez credited senior Ramzey Hassen and the team's midfielders for creating an opportunity for him to make Gar-Field's second goal happen in the second half.
"They help a lot," said Gonzalez. "Their passes are good."
Likewise, Kim noted that forwards Godfred Baisel, Zach Ballard and Nick Schlegel "have great chemistry together" for Patriot, which helps gel the team's offense.
In fact, according to Parker, Gar-Field's defense actually double-teamed Baisel because of his athleticism.
However, it took the smarts of Acosta to keep Patriot afloat. He put Patriot up 2-1 on a free kick in the first half following his earlier equalizer.
"The defense was caught by surprise," said Kim.
At this point in the season, Gar-Field and Patriot are on distinctly different tracks. The Indians entered this week preparing for the opening of their Cardinal District schedule, while the Pioneers don't play any Cedar Run District games until next month.
For Gar-Field, that means consecutive games against Hylton, Woodbridge and Potomac, Forest Park, Freedom (Woodbridge) in consecutive fashion with one non-conference game against Stonewall Jackson booked for April 6.
Patriot faces two of the same teams, Potomac and Forest Park, along with a home match against Kettle Run on April 2 before kicking off their district schedule at home against Freedom (South Riding) on April 5.
From then until the end of the regular season on May 7, it's all district games for the Pioneers.
What the early matched showed both teams though is that there is still plenty of room for improvement before district games get under way.
"I think we'll be more compared and we'll have more patience with the ball," said Kim about his team's progress going forward.
Parker zeroed in on intensity.
"For coming games, we'll train harder and we'll play harder," he said.