PORTLAND — If Franklin’s boys soccer team is trying to fly under the state boys soccer radar in these, OSAA 6A playoffs, the Lightning blew it big time Wednesday night.
Sophomore midfielder Darren Green put a spin move on a Lincoln defender and snapped a right-footer into the Cardinal goal early in the first overtime period. Then the Lightning defenders and gifted goalkeeper Gael Salas-Lara did what they did for the entire 110 minutes: Kept the fourth-ranked Cardinals off the scoreboard.
The 1-0 victory moves 10th-ranked Franklin, 11-3-2, into the quarterfinals for the first time in school history. There, they’ll play fifth-ranked Grant on the Generals’ field on Saturday.
The win also breaks the tie at the regular-season championship of the Portland Interscholastic League. Lincoln and Franklin tied for the title at 5-0-2 after having tied 2-2 at Franklin on Oct. 21.
All this accomplishment by a team that just entered the boys soccer coaches poll at No. 10 for the first time all year and is seeded only 14th — behind Lincoln, Grant and Cleveland.
A win over mighty Lincoln, to go with a victory over Cleveland, though, is a good way to prove you’ve arrived. The evidence was on the Lincoln field Wednesday.
“The last few years we’ve gotten underrecognized,” said senior forward Finn Rueegger. “That’s been a bit deserved, because we haven’t always held to what that recognition would take.
“But the last few years we’ve stepped it up and gotten some real talent.”
The Lightning needed every bit of it on Wednesday night. The third-seeded Cardinals, 10-2-4, are regulars this deep in the playoffs and know what it takes to win at this level.
But these Franklin players are not quakers, either, and stayed with Lincoln shot for shot, stride for stride, header for header and blow for blow.
The game was a rough one. Collisions and fallen players happened all night long. There were four yellow cards — two to Rueegger, who drew the automatic red card with 1:21 left in the second overtime period. That forced his team to finish the match shorthanded. There was also a brief shoving match.
Each team got decent scoring opportunities in the first 80 minutes. Both goalkeepers — Benjamin Reynolds for Lincoln and Salas-Lara for the Lightning — turned away the rare shots that got inside the defensive perimeter.
Salas-Lara was often spectacular. Lincoln’s Andrew Parshall bent a first-half direct free kick that looked as if it was going to sneak inside the upper left corner. But the senior elevated and punched it away at the top of the bar. He turned away a point-blank header by Lincoln’s Owen Hardy midway through the second half.
All in a day’s work, said Franklin coach Ty Kovatch.
“It wasn’t just tonight,” he said of Salas-Lara. “To my eyes, Gael Salas-Lara is one of the best goalkeepers I’ve ever seen in my life.
“He does things like no other high school goalkeeper I’ve encountered in my high school career. And he does it over, and over and over.
“He makes a lot of saves that other human beings just don’t make.”
A word, too, about Franklin’s back line of Edwin Balbuena, Sebastian Snover-Pattie and Vincent Rose — all juniors. They covered the same turf that Lincoln’s fast forwards did, put a Berlin Wall around Salas-Lara when he needed it and boomed clearing kicks at all the right times.
But somebody has to score in playoff soccer, and Green was the man. Rueegger won a 50-50 ball at midfield and dribbled into the left side of the Lincoln box. As Cardinals closed in on him, he tapped it to Green, charging in from midfield.
Green stepped to his left, spun back counterclockwise and almost put the defender into the nearby Lincoln cafeteria. The rest was easy as he smacked the ball into the goal.
“I kept checking in and out looking for ball,” said Green, a sophomore. “I went down the line and Finn got the ball to me. The guy had been biting for my fake shot a lot, so I ended up doing it to him again.
“I kinda did a fake shot and went the wrong way. I knew I had a goal. There was no pressure on me."
Rueegger, who fed him the ball, had the best seat in the house for the feat.
“I took it in, and then I saw Darren,” he said. “It was a great turn and an assume finish. He does that every day in training, so it didn’t surprise me that much.
“I’m glad for him. He’s been in a scoring drought lately. It’s great for him to be back.”
Over on the sideline, it was déja vu all over again for Kovatch.
“Darren Green is a really skilled player,” he said. “He did that exact same sequence in warmups, and when he did it in the game I thought it looked familar.
“I thought it was a great entry pass by Finn. And there was nothing cheap about that goal. It was a solid, beautiful goal.”
And it held up. The Cardinals got five more shots on goal in the last 15 minutes of the overtime, but Salas-Lara and the Lightning back line was up to every one of them.
Now it’s Grant. What did the two teams do during the regular season?
They tied, 1-1.
Here we go again.