Benefield: SRJC men's soccer team plays to scoreless draw in conference home opener
A tie in sports generally leaves one wanting. Wanting a moment back, or wanting to rewrite how a series unfolded. Wanting a little bit of a do-over.
But after the Santa Rosa Junior College men’s soccer team tied visiting San Joaquin Delta 0-0 in the Bear Cubs’ Big 8 Conference home opener Tuesday, coach Marty Kinahan had nothing but praise for his team.
No, a tie isn’t ideal — especially at home — but he said the Bear Cubs played good soccer and battled a solid Delta squad to an “I can live with that” tie.
“I thought we played well,” he said.
But don’t get him wrong.
“That’s a home game we want to win,” he said. “We never play for a tie, so it’s disappointing not to win.”
The tie moves the Bear Cubs to 5-3-1 overall and 1-0-1 in the Big 8.
And the Bear Cubs were a moment away from being handed a loss. In the closing seconds of the game, the Mustangs got a long free kick. As Kinahan was shouting to his defense to prepare for “a chip over the wall,” the Mustangs, yep, sent a chip over the wall. A couple of beautiful passes in the box set up a Mustang goal.
But it was one pass too many: Offside. No goal.
And a goal in that moment would have been a shame, really, because the Bear Cubs had spent the last 15 minutes of the game knocking, but could get nothing to go in. In the 84th minute, freshman Matias Gomez brought a long ball down beautifully to set up a strike. In the ensuing scrum in the box, the Delta goalkeeper game up clutching his head.
Still no score.
If he could rewrite the script at all, Kinahan said he would light a little fire under his squad in the opening minutes. And he’d love to have those corner kicks back. The Bear Cubs inexplicably sent two corner kicks behind the goal, eliminating scoring chances.
And yes, the start could have been faster. My first note of a Bear Cub “moment” was nine minutes in, when freshman Rigo Barragan received a pass from Kevin Ontiveros and got off a decent shot.
But thereafter, the evenly matched teams did battle with no one clearly having an edge. And there was a long stretch where solid SRJC defending proved a recurring highlight.
The Bear Cubs’ back line worked in coordination better than was apparent nearly a month ago in their home opener against DeAnza. And on Tuesday, the Mustangs had good team speed but could not break the home team.
Until freshman defender Derek Neidlinger tripped.
Neidlinger, who prepped at Windsor High, otherwise had an outstanding defensive game but his life must have flashed before his eyes when, 32 minutes in, he was backpedaling to a lofting ball heading into his own defensive third, got his feet tangled up and hit the deck.
“I felt like I got sniped,” he said, chuckling. “I honestly panicked a little bit and my feet got caught up, but thankfully they didn’t score.”
Freshman goalkeeper Javier Aguilar had to charge to clear the ball. Crisis averted.