SNOHOMISH — With a 2-0 advantage on the scoreboard against a powerful team from the Wesco South, normally it would be hard to find any reason for concern for the Snohomish Panthers boys soccer team.
On Wednesday night at Veterans Memorial stadium, a different situation played out for the Panthers, who did dispatch previously undefeated Mariner with relative ease.
Snohomish went up 1-0 quickly, but lost co-captain Blake Crutchfield to injury in the 16th minute.
In the 16th minute, Mariner’s speedy forward Geovanni Ramirez sprinted toward a 50-50 ball and Snohomish’s Crutchfield met him head on. Both struck the ball and it appeared Crutchfield got the better of the encounter as Ramirez flipped over the ball and out of the play.
After the ball was cleared, Crutchfield stayed down on the turf and clutched his leg. He was helped off the field by two teammates.
The junior known for his deadly long throw-ins, left the stadium at the end of the night on crutches with his right knee wrapped.
Snohomish coach Dan Pingrey was disappointed because he felt it shouldn’t have been such a close play.
“It happened because we were being lazy, so it never should have happened,” he said.
Pingrey made no real guess as to the length or severity of the injury.
“He tweaked his knee, we’ll see what happens.”
It was a blow to the team’s depth that was already thin due to four players, two starters, leaving for the week on a spring-break trip to Hawaii.
Two replacements, freshmen Colman French and Jason Fairhurst made an immediate impact. The latter’s assist gave senior Uriel Herrera an easy goal in the 5th minute.
“Our young players (filled in) very well and that opened up the goal for me,” Herrera said.
The senior midfielder split the out-of-position defense and got Mariner keeper Silvan Katynskiy to over pursue. Herrera dribbled toward the back post with nothing but net in front of him and put away the point-blank shot.
After Crutchfield’s injury it seemed like the Panthers sleepwalked through the first half.
The Marauders tried to take advantage of the weakened Panthers backline and continued to pressure. In the 19th minute, a free kick by Miguel Lopez near the Panthers goal led to another free kick by Edgar Navarro. The senior defender’s curving shot hurtled toward the back post but goalkeeper Ryan Peters laid out to punch away the shot. Lopez’s ensuing free kick was thwarted, as was the Marauder’s best first-half threat.
“We were out of sorts in the first half,” Pingrey said. “It’s been a long time since I got a little irritated in the locker room at halftime, but we responded. I was pleased with the response.”
A few formation changes invigorated the Panthers, who surrendered several flashy shots from the Marauders, but most were from distance and off target or vacuumed up by Peters.
“Peters, he’s been outstanding,” Pingrey said. “He’s done well as a keeper and a general back there. The guys are very confident in what he can do.”
In the 65th minute, a through-ball came to Herrera behind the Mariner defense. Katynskiy won this confrontation with a big deflection. Three minutes later, a loose ball squirted behind the Mariner defense again and Herrera raced Katynskiy for possession 15-yards from the goal. The Snohomish forward tumbled down and either suffered an injury or feigned one. Herrera got the attention of the referee, who handed out a yellow card to the goalie and awarded Snohomish a penalty kick.
“They played me a perfect ball. I just had to get in front of the goalie,” Herrera said. “He stuck his leg up and caught the bottom of my foot.”
Eric Jones converted to make the score 2-0.
It was an interesting contrast from a play 10 minutes prior when a similar collision occurred in the goal box on the other end, but that caution went to the forward — Ramirez of Mariner — and not the goalie.
Mariner’s coach, Vince DeSimone, didn’t put this loss on the referees, however.
“I would never talk trash about the refs. They do what they have to do,” he said. “We gave away two easy goals and it happens, but we’ll be ready for the next team.”
The official shot tally was 15-13 in favor of Snohomish, though DeSimone’s numbers were more one-sided in his team’s favor. He was more disappointed in his team’s inability to finish.
Snohomish simply remains unbeaten in Wesco play and extends its edge atop the North division standings. After a team that had sky-high expectations a year ago and failed to meet some of them, Herrera is happy where the Panthers are, despite the injury to Crutchfield.
“I think we are under-ranked this year an I like it,” he said. “We’re underdogs. WE don’t have as much pressure as the rest of the teams.”