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Warriors tie with McKay, want to make it back to the 6A playoffs, win Metro League

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Aloha midfielder Parkin Harape looks for open space against the McKay defense on Monday.

The perception surrounding the Aloha boys soccer team once held that the Warriors possessed plenty of flair and flash, yet not the results, particularly in the playoffs.

The past two seasons, however, the wildly entertaining Warriors have fully flipped that typecast. Aloha still brings all types of crowd-pleasing aesthetics to the pitch.

Now, Aloha has the substance to back its style, reaching the Class 6A quarterfinals the last two years. The Warriors have 10 seniors back from the 2017 team that upset McMinnville and Tigard and nearly knocked off state semifinalist South Eugene in the 6A quarters. And they're bent and not just getting back to the quarters, but taking their video game-like methods deeper.

"We want to get into Metro and hopefully win it," Aloha senior Lazar Djurdjevic said. "It doesn't matter who we play and how good they are, we're here to play. We have to set the tone and win every game in front of us. We just have to stay strong and not drop down the to competition at all, we just have to bring what we have and leave everything we have on the field. We've all been playing together for a long time, so we understand each other."

The Warriors started out the season somewhat slowly, losing three of their first four non-league games. Yet, in the last two weeks, Aloha has run its record to 3-3-1 including a 1-1 tie against McKay on Monday at Aloha High School.

"As a team, we played very well, we just couldn't capitalize on our chances which really counted against us in the end," Lazar Djurdjevic said. "But we stuck together as a team until the end."

If you want mind-blowing passes, dribble tricks that embarrass defenders and goals that drop jaws, the Warriors are the preeminent program. The Djurdjevics are incredible distributors of the soccer ball as is Parkin Harape, who sees the game a step ahead. Oscar Cruz Solis and Valentin Guerrero Gutierrez can finish with pizzaz and speed in the final third of the pitch. The Warriors don't have a starter or key bench player that can't handle the ball and dig into a wide-ranging bag of passes and dribbling skills that are YouTube-worthy. There's a freedom and creativity to Aloha's game that's entrancing.

"You always want to show out for the crowd, but most importantly for the team and make sure our team moves forward every day," Nikola Djurdjevic said. "The crowd doesn't matter as much as performing for and with your team."

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Aloha senior Lazar Djurdjevic passes off to an open teammate against McKay.

Oftentimes Aloha was the obvious aggressor against McKay with a shot on goal count that ran into the double digits. After sifting from right-to-left, Harape dished to Lazar Djurdjevic, who sliced down the left side of the pitch and dispensed a great ball to Guerrero Gutierrez in front of the goal, but the Scot goalie made a huge two-handed catch to stop the go-ahead goal. A great hit-ahead pass from Diego Trejo Martinez directly to the foot of Guerrero Gutierrez, whose flick shot was again caught by the McKay keeper. Bullet shots from Harape and Lazar Djurdjevic just barely flew over the frame.

"We kept the ball on the ground, which makes us more dangerous, and didn't play too many long balls," Nikola Djurdjevic said. "Games like these you tie and it's the preseason, but when (Metro) starts, it's a point for the other team. It's important for us to finish our opportunities."

The Warriors read and scan the field for the open man much like a basketball team does on the hardwood. On offense, there's constant movement on and off the ball and with great visionary passers like the Djurdjevics and Harape doling out the rock, Aloha's forwards like Cruz Solis and Guerrero Gutierrez are sure to get high-quality goal-scoring chances. Senior forward Oscar Cruz Solis got Aloha on the board early and gave the Warriors a 1-0 less than 10 minutes into the first half against McKay.

"Seeing the pitch catches the enemy off-guard and sets us up as an offense," Lazar Djurdjevic said. "As a defender, you know when guys play dangerous balls down the line, it's hard to defend. It benefits our team a lot."

Lazar Djurdjevic said the Warriors need to maintain their cohesion for a full 80 minutes and maybe more once overtime comes into the play in the postseason. As Aloha has ascended up through the 6A bracket, the senior captain said the Warriors tend to splinter as the pressure ratchets up. Players tend to try to do too much, to take over the game on their own, when team ball is what makes the Warriors most dangerous. If Aloha remains unified, there's no cap to its potential.

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - The Aloha boys soccer team tied with McKay 1-1 in non-league action on Monday.

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