Park City Red Wolves Soccer Club christens Dozier with a W
The Park City Red Wolves, Park City’s newly formed United Soccer League tier two soccer team, won their first-ever home game on Saturday at Dozier Field by defeating Ogden 2-1.
Ogden had hosted the Miners on May 23 in the Western Conference season opener, where the teams had tied 2-2.
The Red Wolves, mainly players of college age, had come from around the country and the world – from Utah to Hawaii and even other countries, such as Canada, Mexico and Argentina – to hone their craft over the three-month season.
Some of the players were living at a house the team had rented in town while others drove up from the Salt Lake City suburbs for the game. About 80 fans in the home seats and another 30 in the away bleachers bundled against the blustery spring weather.
The USL touts itself as a clear route to the professionals, and for some, it is. The Red Wolves had seen it firsthand when their lead striker, Alexi Jaimes, was pulled up to the Chattanooga Red Wolves, the Tennessee-based USL League 1 team that the PC team feeds into, where he signed a professional contract days before the start of the season. Coach Patrick Rennie said Jaimes’ departure was both frustrating and reassuring for the Park City team. It showed players that the promise of advancing is real, but left the team searching for offensive options.
The Red Wolves used the PCHS locker rooms to prepare for the game, and players sat among Miners plaques and posters.
Luis Vargas was running late, but the team needed him.
As the team’s No. 10, which traditionally is either a goal scorer or, in Vargas’s case as a high center midfielder, an offensive playmaker, the Red Wolves would look to him to help fill the gap that Jaimes left.
Vargas plays for Utah Valley University in the NCAA and had played with Ogden in the USL the season before, but when he got a call from Red Wolves owner Bob Martino, who is an acquaintance of his, he decided to switch teams.
So far, he said it was working out well.
“Its been two, three weeks and the improvement we’ve done in that time has been massive,” he said. “I like that we all come together and work on the same goal no matter what your background or culture is,”
Just before leaving for the field, he stopped and said he was going to score, as if he was excited to share news he had just learned.
If Vargas was psyching himself up, it worked.
The Red Wolves scored eight into the game when a cross by midfielder Jonathan Guadarrama set up striker Innocent Twishime at the far side of the goal. Twishime’s close-range shot found space between the flailing goalkeeper and a defender.
Ogden equalized eight minutes into the second half when the Red Wolves failed to clear the ball, and it ended up falling for Sammy Tojaga to volley into the side netting.
Another eight minutes later, Vargas made good on his promise. Right back Paytin Ayau carried the ball up his line and spotted Vargas in the center charging toward the goal.
“I saw the defender step a little high and then me and the right back made eye contact,” Vargas said. “He knew where I wanted it. He just played me and I was able to find it in the air.”
Vargas got a high header on the ball, placing it wide and low on the goal to take the lead. He turned and ran toward the bench, celebrating with outstretched arms. His teammates caught him by the jersey, as if trying to stop him from taking flight.
He almost repeated the goal in the last minute of the game, but the keeper got his hand to the ball and pushed it wide.
As soon as the official had blown the final whistle, the Red Wolves celebrated and huddled on the field, where Rennie gave them a short post-game speech.
He praised his team for playing hard for 90 minutes, then told the team to “tell the fans who you are.”
They put their hands into the huddle.
After the game, Vargas was all-business. He gave a brief description of the goal, of the opportunity that went wide, then said he was happy with his decision to come to the Red Wolves.
“I’m very satisfied with the team,” he said. “I chose to play with this team, just to follow my heart and see what this team had. I’m very content with what they are giving me and what I’m giving them, and happy with the decision I made.”
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It wasn’t easy, but the Miners dispatched Region 8 rival Salem Hills in five sets on Wednesday, earning momentum heading into the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs.