When Cougar boys soccer head coach Ryan McCormack spoke to the Canby Current on Monday, he knew his team was making strides. Yes, the Cougars sat at an 0-5 record, but things were looking up.
Sammy Barajas-Silva won Oregon Soccer Player of the Week, and the Cougars were fresh off of a close loss to Tualatin. You could sense that a breakthrough was coming for McCormack’s Cougars.
After a 0-4 loss to perennial Three Rivers League powerhouse Lake Oswego on Monday, that break finally came two days later, as Canby won a thriller against rival Oregon City, 2-1, to capture their first victory of the season. The grueling, physical game saw three penalty kicks and a showcase of defense.
Oregon City got on the board first with the first penalty of the game in the 18th minute. After an illegal tackle in the penalty box, Richard Austin-Turner pelted one past senior goalie David Villegas to take a 1-0 lead. Despite the early deficit, McCormack and his team stayed calm.
“We’ve talked a lot about mentality this year,” said McCormack, “particularly about not collapsing after getting scored on and not letting off the gas if we go ahead.”
Those words rang true as Canby needed only two minutes to knot the score. This time, the Pioneers tripped up the Canby attack, and senior Cristian Sanchez-Ramirez stepped up to take the penalty. The Pioneer goalie initially saved the shot, but Sanchez-Ramirez handled the rebound and booted in the game-tying goal.
The remainder of the first half, as well as the start of the second, was a defensive stalemate as both teams looked for opportunities. The Cougar back line of Kody Giger, Mario Bautista, Landon Hill, Bryant Santos and Carlos Perez-Garcia stepped up and limited Oregon City’s chances for the next 40 minutes.
In the 60th minute, opportunity finally knocked for the Cougars. Oregon City committed their second illegal tackle of the game and another penalty was called. McCormack confidently called Cristian Sanchez-Ramirez once again to take the shot.
“Cristian’s been taking PKs for the JV and varsity team for three years now,” McCormack explained. “We know he’s always calm and confident and that’s what you want in a guy that’s going to step up and hit them.”
This time, Sanchez-Ramirez didn’t need a rebound. His shot sailed true and gave the Cougars a 2-1 lead with 20 minutes remaining. Once again, the team stayed calm and maintained its composure.
Poised in the net, Villegas would save nine shots in the game, as well as several in the closing minutes as the defense held firm. When Oregon City’s final attack was stopped due to a penalty with 35 seconds remaining, the boys knew they had pushed through for the 2-1 victory.
After seeing improvement on the field all season long, the Cougars finally saw improvement in the standings.
“[This win] gives us the confidence we need to know we can finish out a game when we have the lead,” McCormack said. “That was a very challenging environment, and the guys were able to keep their heads about them.”
With the win, Canby improved to a 1-5 record overall, with a 1-3 record in the TRL.
Up next, the Cougars will travel to Tigard on Monday before hosting West Linn on Wednesday. Both games are scheduled for 7 p.m.
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