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Panther Soccer (Sep 9, 2015)

Last Wednesday afternoon the team headed out of Boonville for one of their longest road trips of the season — to Middletown in Lake County, over two hours to the east, a non-league game. No driver could be found for the second van, so the team traveled on a school bus, allowing all members of the squad to go — the two vans can only take 18 of the 22-man squad. This was the first time the soccer team had traveled on a school bus in my 13 years of coaching at AV and thus the first time the whole squad has gone to an away game in that time. Shocking, I know.

The team prepared well in the warm-up and dominated the first 15 minutes of the game which saw the Mustangs hardly getting a touch. One clearcut chance had already been missed when early on Christian Guerrero volleyed the ball high into the net following a free-kick that the Middletown defense failed to clear. 1-0, AV.

Probably due to complacency, the Panthers proceeded to relax, playing with little intensity. The out-skilled but certainly not outfought Mustangs came back and scored two goals due to some dreadful defensive play by AV. At the break AV surprisingly was 1-2 down against a team they had always beaten convincingly.

After a somewhat infuriated coach gave his half-time talk, the team returned with a corrected attitude. Soon they equalized when Gerardo Torales and David Eligio nicely set up ‘Papa’ Medina who scored from a few yards out. Five minutes later Medina receive another goal-line pass from Chirro Tovar and the sophomore midfielder made no mistake. AV had a 3-2 lead.

AV had regained control and only some splendid saves by Middletown’a ‘keeper kept the game close. Finally, Fernando Ferreyra hit Chirro Tovar near midfield, 30 yards from goal. Tovar returned the pass and hammered the ball in from fully 25 yards out. A perfect strike into the top corner of the goal beyond ‘keeper’s outstretched hand. An excellent goal, perhaps Goal of the Season.

The Panthers remained dominant. AV could have been up by five or six. Tovar scored a fifth goal wide of the ‘keeper off a pass from Gerardo Torales. Middletown scored a consolation goal in the dying seconds after another defensive error by AV. Final: 5-3, Panthers — a well deserved win that hopefully taught the team a lesson about commitment and staying on task. These days few teams are pushovers so effort must accompany the Panthers’ undoubted skill.

The first league match of the season was last Friday, September 4 at Tom Smith Field in Boonville against Geyserville. Although the Panthers have a very good record against the Broncos, the visitors always prove to be tough, but the Bronco players were not alone in thwarting AV this day.

AV dominated again — the shot count was a lop-sided 28 to 4! However, converting possessions into goals continued to be a problem for the Panthers. AV just could not put the ball in the net and after a goalless first half the Broncos scored on a breakaway goal in the 58th minute on their only attack of the second half. Shortly thereafter AV got a penalty kick following a handball by a Geyserville defender. Chirro Tovar stepped up but his shot was too close to the ‘keeper who made a fine block. The ball rebounded straight to Tovar who made no mistake the second time and put the ball into the goal. It was 1-1. Or was it? To everyone’s surprise, including the Bronco coach and his players, the referees huddled. They then announced that the goal did not count as the rule states that the player taking the kick could not touch the ball again if the goalkeeper had made a save and it bounced back towards him. What? Wrong!

I have been involved in this sport for over 50 years and knew this decision by the refs to be 100% incorrect. I have seen such a situation happen many times and their decision was simply incorrect — they did not know the correct rule and it cost AV an important goal.

Despite vehement protests, the game resumed and the waves of AV attacks continued. Finally, with ten minutes remaining, an equalizer was scored by Carlos Hernandez but, despite more chances for AV, a winning goal was denied and the game ended in a 1-1 draw.

After the match the referees told me they believed they may have made a mistake. The opposition coach, knowing the call to be incorrect, even told them he would officially accept a 2-1 defeat. At the time of writing I am not sure what the outcome will be but a draw rather than the correct 2-1 win may affect AV’s postseason if upheld. As I left the high school field just two cars remained. It was the two referees and I stopped to have a final word. It was all very amicable and they had been studying the rulebook. They were feeling very bad — their earlier concern had become reality and they now knew that the decision was wrong. It was not simply an incorrect judgment call that happens all the time in sports — these are a frustrating but inevitable part of the game. This was different. They had got a very basic rule completely wrong and it had led to a very unsatisfactory result for AV. We shall see if anything can be done to right this most frustrating wrong.*

Next, AV hosts Tomales today (Wednesday, September 9) in a league match at 4.30pm. They will then go to Potter Valley on on Friday, September 11, before facing Cloverdale at home on Monday, September 14. Then Rincon Valley on Wednesday, September 16. Your support at the matches is much appreciated. We play exciting football and vociferous home crowd support is probably worth a goal a game! Hope to see you there. Come on you Panthers!

(*The rule the refs were confused about states that the player who has missed the initial penalty kick cannot touch the ball until it has been touched by anther player. So if Tovar’s shot had rebounded straight to him off the goalpost or crossbar then he could not have played it the second time. In the case above however, it was the goalkeeper (another player) who had touched the ball and so Tovar’s second touch was valid and the goal should have stood.)

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