The Wednesday victory was a confidence-builder for La Tapatia, who succumbed to number-one-ranked Bluecorn/Buck United’s prowess on Monday night to post their second loss of the season.
“We’re excited to be in second place after the first round,” team manager Alex Padilla said following Wednesday’s win over the Freaks. “We have a great team this season.”
Meanwhile, the Freaks have struggled this early season to chalk up results in the victories column. Yet despite the disparity between the two teams’ rankings (La Tapatia was in second going into the match, while the Freaks stood in 7th place with just one win in the first round), the victory was by no means a give-away for La Tapatia. Powered by the impenetrable Perlas, Oscar and Carlos, La Tapatia sunk an early goal (adding to Oscar Perla’s already lofty 2008 goal count) in the first half. But the Freaks’ own dynamic duo of Dave Allen and Scott Michols on offense prodded La Tapatia menacingly to start the second, with an Allen-to-wide-open-Michols attempt that grazed the cross bar in the first few minutes following the second half’s starting whistle. The Freaks struck again just minutes later, when Allen steered a well-placed corner kick toward La Tapatia’s net with his head. But again the Freaks were denied the goal by the too-thick crossbar.
Meanwhile, La Tapatia only dabbled tentatively on the Freak’s side of the field, forward Henry E. posting the only shot on goal during the entire front side of the second half.
The Freaks’ tenacity eventually paid off, with a precise passing combination initiated by Allen resulting in a Freaks goal to tie the game 1-1. The threat didn’t go unanswered by La Tapatia, who seemed to shake off their post-halftime sluggishness following the Freaks’ wakeup-call goal. Oscar Perla wound up and fired a big shot, which hit metal instead of net (to Freaks’ keeper Paul Jones’s relief.)
Perla didn’t let Jones off so easily in his next attempt, however, dribbling through a line of Freak defenders as if he were playing a leisurely game of hopscotch and scoring goal number two for his team.
Freak forwards Kate Frerichs and Melanie Montoya did their part to set up plays in front of the La Tapatia net, but were met with tough resistance from La Tapatia defender Charley Abernathy. When the Freaks were awarded a penalty kick following a hand ball in the box, it seemed as if the tides would once again turn on La Tapatia. Allen, however, was robbed of the game-tying goal by La Tapatia keeper Michael Pierce.
Grasping onto the tail-end of the La Tapatia momentum initiated by the big Pierce save, Oscar Perla delivered a silver-platter pass to teammate Diana Rector just minutes later. She easily tapped it in to give her team their first comfortable lead of the night. Yet the two-goal differential didn’t last for long. Big-footed Allen came out swinging, making goal-scoring look easy and putting his team – once again – in striking distance of an upset win, or at least a tie, with just two minutes left in the match.
A sense of urgency descended upon the Bear Creek pitch in the last minutes, which, thanks to a surplus of action, seemed to drag on much longer than 120 seconds. Allen delivered another close-but-no-cigar shot, which La Tapatia answered seconds later with a hard-fired shot of their own. Freaks keeper Jones chalked up the defensive save of the day with a sliding locomotive scoop to keep his team’s head above water for the game’s final minute. Yet the Freaks ultimately ran out of time, the game ending before they could find a way into La Tapatia’s net to tie the game and send it into overtime.
The 3-2 La Tapatia victory on Wednesday assures the team a spot in the A-league for the upcoming second round of play. Joining them will be number-one ranked Buck; the other two teams to comprise the A-league are yet to be determined, with the final games of round one to be played early next week. In contention are the ever-threatening Fat Alley, as well as the fresh-faced Flubba Dubba Floradora, the Soccletes, and Brown Dog. The round one schedule is slated to be complete Thursday, Sept. 4, with round two A- and B-league game schedules to begin Monday, Sept. 8 (pending rain-outs).