March 8, 2011
SALT LAKE CITY If there’s an ok time of the season to take a heartbreaking loss and mold it into some added motivation, it’s the very first match.
The Park City boys’ soccer team now has some added motivation and then some.
Facing a bitter rival, Judge Memorial, in the first match of the 2011 season Friday in Salt Lake, the Miners, whose aspirations include another 3A state title, were dealt a crushing blow. The Bulldogs, who were down to 10 men on the pitch, scored a stoppage-time match-winner in a frigid and physical match, beating Park City 2-1.
"Losing against Judge is always tough," said head coach Caro Caro. "We let this one get away from us."
After one of the Judge captains was dealt a second yellow card in the 75th minute of play, the Miners had the momentum to steal a win.
But the Bulldogs capitalized on a mistake in the Miner midfield and turned in a great one-two pass combination to get a player free in the box against Park City goalkeeper John Platt. Judge buried the goal and essentially buried the Miners.
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"It was a well-fought game," Caro said. "This was a wonderful test for my team. In the end, I am pretty glad.
"We have a scheme and we have a plan and I think we executed it well. We were surprised about how physical this game became."
Park City’s style of finesse and possession dominated the early moments of the match as the Miners threatened the Bulldog front third for much of the early going.
No moment was more threatening than Park City’s awarded penalty kick in the 14th minute after the ball struck the hand of a Bulldog player in the box.
Senior midfielder Eric Laufer stepped to the spot, but saw his penalty shot turned away by the Judge keeper.
"We should have put the ball in the net," Caro said. "It would have been different. Much different."
When asked if missing the penalty kick took momentum away from his team, Caro said it didn’t take away from the Miners as much as it gave life to the Bulldogs.
"It set the tone for them," he said. "They knew they were lucky."
Judge jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 37th minute, and while Park City looked every bit as good as advertised in the first half, not capitalizing on golden opportunities came back to haunt the Miners.
Park City equalized in the 47th minute when junior Keenan McCall found his way onto a beautiful switch and one-timed a shot after one bounce with the outside of his right foot to the far post.
"I’m so glad this was the first game and we played at this high of speed," Caro said.
With less than 20 minutes left, Laufer almost bent home a vicious 30-yard free kick. But it had a little too much curve, barely missing the top-left corner of the frame.
Caro said he knew this was the first match of the season, and while the team was missing one of it’s co-captains and team leaders in midfielder Anthony Alcox serving a red-card suspension from last year’s playoff loss to Delta playing from behind is something Park City’s head coach does not want his team to get used to.
"I think our guys just lost focus on our scheme," he said. "We still wanted to play finesse, and touch the ball and pass it and knock it around, but again, it’s difficult when you know you should have been 1-0 in front and now you’re playing catch-up."
Park City gets back its leading goal-scorer from last year in Alcox (eight goals) as it heads down south to take on Pine View High School in St. George Friday and Canyon View High School in Cedar City Saturday.
Pine View is coming off a 3-2 season-opening loss to Wasatch at home, while Canyon View was thrashed by Desert Hills 5-0.
Caro reiterated that preseason games are for learning and seeing what kind of team his kids can become.
"I told them I’m very proud of them," he said. "Now we know what we need to do in order to move forward. I haven’t changed my mind. I think this team can go all the way."