Liberty boys soccer grabs key 2-0 win over Newberg on Monday
The Liberty boys soccer team needed a win.
The Falcons needed a win, and they needed momentum for the upcoming Class 6A state playoffs.
They got both on Monday, scoring twice in the first half to beat Newberg 2-0 at Newberg High School in both teams' Pacific Conference finale.
"Our mindset was just win, put everything on the field so that we can set that mentality for the rest of the playoffs," said Liberty junior forward Rudy Salinas Solorio, who scored his team's first goal on Monday.
Coming off a stretch that had seen the team go 0-3-2 — that coming after a 6-1-0 start — the Falcons understood the importance of Monday's victory.
"I think in the beginning (of the year), we were confident and we were a really proud team and we thought we were a really good team," said Liberty junior defender Jacob McDaniel. "But after a couple of losses, that mentality kind of went down and so what we're trying to do now is build that back up and this game is a good start to get us into playoffs."
The 20th-ranked Falcons improved to 2-2-2 in Pacific play (8-4-2 overall), placed fourth in the conference and will likely open the postseason on the road on Saturday. With the loss, the Tigers fell to 1-4-1 in conference play (3-9-2 overall) and finished sixth in the Pacific Conference standings. Currently ranked 39th in the state, the Tigers' season is likely over.
"It looked similar to all season. We had some nice set pieces and finishing was our only weakness," said Newberg senior defender Mason Darling, one of only three seniors on this year's team. "We can stop the ball, we've got speed, but finishing — it's something we've had trouble with all season."
"There's been a lot of games this season where that's been the case," agreed senior midfielder Martin Gonzalez. "If we just had the chance to score and put the ball in the net, there would have been a change."
The two teams fought for possession through the first nine minutes of Monday's contest, but the Falcons broke through for the night's first goal there. Senior Eduardo Flores Garcia took a free kick from 26 yards out and tapped it to Salinas Solorio as he raced down the left side of the Tigers' penalty box. Salinas Solorio took a touch toward the end line, then slipped a diagonal shot behind charging Newberg sophomore keeper Alexander Valdez-Espinoza into the far corner of the goal with 31 minutes, 3 seconds left in the half.
"It's our secret weapon and it gives us momentum … whenever we need it," Salinas Solorio said. "It's a key thing to get our confidence up."
The Tigers battled back hard after the early goal, getting three solid shots by senior Geronimo Lopez-Garcia — two off free kicks — in a span of just four minutes, but each time, Liberty junior keeper Isaac Parra came through with stops.
Then, with 7:03 remaining in the half, the Falcons scored again to grab a 2-0 lead. Liberty sent a long pass up the left seam to start the scoring play, then made a lateral pass across the Tigers' penalty box to senior Juan Olvera Manriguez who angled a shot to the far post that gave his team a two-goal lead.
Newberg came out energized in the second half, held its own in possession and created the first of its two great scoring chances 10 minutes into the half. There, sophomore Isaac Williams made a run down the right side of the field into Liberty's final third, then sent a crossing pass to Darling for a header that was barely tipped over the bar by Parra.
"After that (second) goal went in, I think we kicked it into high gear," Gonzalez said. "There was nothing left to lose. I think a lot of my teammates did the same too — kicked it into high gear."
Still down 2-0, Newberg attacked again with 12 minutes left in the game when Lopez-Garcia sent a long free kick into the Falcons' penalty box. Parra leapt high to knock the ball away, Newberg sophomore Emanuel Arenas hit a hard shot off the rebound that was blocked by a Liberty defender and Tiger junior Zachary Macris then saw his follow shot stopped as well.
For the Falcons, Monday's win was just what the team needed to launch it into the state playoffs.
"This is the kind of streak we need to keep on going," Salinas Solorio said. "We need to fix a lot of things, but the majority of the game was ours and we want to keep this kind of play up."
"There's a couple things we need to fix — errors in the back — but besides that, I think it was good," McDaniel said. "I just think our game is possession and that's what we need to do."