Starting up the season, Tigard soccer bested by rival

Jair Nunez Acosta battles for the ball with Tualatin’s Leo Fulcher
Jair Nunez Acosta (7) battles for the ball with Tualatin’s Leo Fulcher off a goal kick from Villatoro in the first half. Henry Kaus/Tigard Life

With the past school year and sports season plagued by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was questionable how this school year would proceed. But, students heading back to class are not the only new trip to normalcy this fall – sports are back on track for a full season and Tigard soccer is no exception.

In an early-season Three Rivers League (TRL) matchup, Tigard played their first home game against rival Tualatin, with both schools bringing plenty of intensity.

Coming after last year’s 11-game season that finished up in early April, however, these athletes still had much to adjust to.

Adam Miller fights with Hansi Katterle for possession.
Adam Miller (3) fights with Hansi Katterle (6) for possession nearing the second half. This was the first of two rivalry matchups between the two schools with the second scheduled for Oct. 4. Henry Kaus/Tigard Life

“Yeah, there was no season last year – pickup games and scrimmages. It was not even a season,” Tigard Head Coach Simonides Angelo Simonetti told Tigard Life.

Last year’s soccer season was uncertain, to say the least, filled with continuously changing guidelines and heavily limited practices. The Tigers also graduated eight seniors from the team after completing the season with five wins and six losses.

However, 10 players return from the 2020-2021 spring season, including junior defender Caleb Benjamin and junior goalkeeper Donovan Villatoro as well as senior midfielder Adam Miller. Midfielder Alex Galindo Zarate also joins the fray as the sole freshman. 

When these rivals last met in the spring, the Wolves swept the Tigers in a 4-0 domination, with Tualatin midfielder Ben Augee scoring twice. Augee returns for his senior season at Tualatin, and Tigard had to plan with this in mind.

But, through the first half, Tigard took too long to adjust.

“I think we just gave a little too much space to the best player. Ben Augee is definitely is a top player at Tualatin and it took us a little time to adjust,” Simonetti said.

In the eleventh minute, Augee scored his first of the game from the field’s right side, prompted by Villatoro ducking out of the picture after a previous save. Augee went back-to-back five minutes later when he executed on an open shot for a two-score lead.

Goalkeeper Donovan Villatoro returns the ball to play.
Goalkeeper Donovan Villatoro (1) returns the ball to play in the first Tigard vs Tualatin matchup of the season. Villatoro accounted for six saves on the goal in the second half. Henry Kaus/Tigard Life

“They build up the game on top of one player,” Simonetti said. “Ben is definitely the player that when he is out of the field, they have a lot of trouble.”

The remainder of the half remained scoreless – Tualatin unable to finish on their few chances while Tigard missed all of theirs.

In the second half, Tualatin’s momentum finally changed when Tigard began putting on pressure and an opening was revealed. Off a free ball, Benjamin held possession for mere moments, spun and sent the ball with his left foot into the goal to bring their deficit to one.

As the clock wound down, the intensity grew and the crowd of friends, parents and other athletes ate it right up. Not to mention that Villatoro was tallying up six saves by the goal.

But, with only two minutes left on the clock, sophomore midfielder Zane Naser received his second yellow card and subsequent red card after tripping a Tualatin forward in a chase down to the home goal. Naser was sent off, giving Tualatin a one-player advantage for the remainder of the match.

Tualatin’s Remus Repcak then launched a score to the right side off an assist by Augee with 51 seconds remaining to give the Wolves an insurmountable 3-1 lead.

“We almost had the game back in the second half,” Simonetti said, “but it was just a situation – especially against Tualatin – with players like Remus (Repcak), Ben Augee, you can’t make a mistake and I lost one man.”

This brought the Wolves to 2-1 on the season with the Tigers dropping to 0-2-1 overall. But, with a full 14-game season in session, the team has much to look ahead to, including a Tualatin rematch on October 4 at Tualatin High School.