By Herbert Lemus’ tally, it was eight minutes to go against Rancho, about 10 minutes to play against Windsor, and 12 minutes to go against Ukiah when the mistakes were made.
Late goals, momentary lapses and the Healdsburg Greyhounds boys soccer team found itself walking away from games with losses or a tie instead of a win.
The ’Hounds, who shared the Sonoma County League title with Elsie Allen last season, dropped their opener to Rancho 2-1 after they had a 1-0 lead, then fell to Windsor 4-3 after building a 3-2 lead, let Ukiah back in with a 1-1 tie and almost did the same with Piner after going up 2-0 — but managed to get away with a 2-1 win.
It’s an issue Lemus, the ’Hounds’ head coach, knows his very young team must address — and fast. The ’Hounds’ next game is after the winter break against a talented Sonoma Valley team on Jan. 4.
“We need to learn to put teams away when we have them down,” Lemus said. “For me, it takes a little bit of character for you to do it.”
And that takes a little time at the varsity level.
The ’Hounds went 11-6 last season and 9-3 in league to share the title with Elsie. But they did it with a pretty senior-rich roster. This year? Not so much. The ’Hounds are starting three freshmen, two sophomores, five juniors and one senior: Goalkeeper Javier Aguilar.
“A lot of these guys, No. 1, they are learning to play on the varsity level, and No. 2, they don’t realize the intensity of the game does pick up in those last minutes,” he said. “We have to stay focused on the game. We cannot have lapses where it’s going to come back on us.”
Lemus said his fairly high substitution rate — he’s trying to get his young guys minutes — could be affecting how players adjust to the rhythm of the game. But Lemus said his players need to figure out how to continue to play high-intensity defense without giving up critical fouls in the no-no zone.
“We have a very physical line in the back and we have committed too many fouls inside the penalty box area,” he said. “We let teams come back on us, we give them an easy goal or a (penalty kick).”
Healdsburg gave up a PK against Ukiah, another against Rancho and again versus Windsor, Lemus said.
“You need to know where you are before you commit the foul. Those are giveaways,” he said.
That said, Lemus likes the way his defense plays. He likes the hard-nosed mentality. Despite giving up three penalty kicks, the ’Hounds have not gotten any red cards.
Still, Lemus is trying to teach his players to have greater awareness of where they are when they go in for a tackle.
“They are doing whatever it takes to get the ball, but in the process, you have to remember there is a consequence,” he said.
One thing Lemus can’t work on or can’t coach around is the ’Hounds’ schedule. Like last season, Healdsburg is on the road. They have no choice — their natural-grass field is not suitable to host games after any kind of foul weather.