MEMORIAL FIELD — Facing immediate and relentless pressure early in its quarterfinal boys' soccer game against Birmingham High as part of continuing play in the Ralph Brandt Tournament, the Burroughs defense failed to respond and yielded two early goals.
“Hand it to Birmingham. They finished their chances early and that’s the name of the game,” Burroughs Coach Mike Kodama said.
Birmingham (3-2-1) scored twice in the game’s first six minutes. From the start of the match, Burroughs’ defense seemed a step slow and had trouble orienting itself to the Patriots’ well-oiled, possession-oriented, fast-paced attack. When the Indians did halt the onrush, the Patriots’ forwards were aggressive in pressuring the Indians’ balkline.
“Our whole goal was to was to win on the opposing team’s third [of the field],” Patriot Coach E.B. Madha said. “We wanted to win the ball. That’s what we did and that’s why we got two quick goals because we finally started putting pressure up top.”
This tactic did directly lead to Birmingham’s first goal, which came in the game’s third minute. After one of the Burroughs central defenders failed to clear the ball, Patriot Rodrigo Nino pounced on the ball and blasted a shot across the goal and past goalkeeper Jessy Castellon.
Birmingham quickly stoked the early lead, adding a second goal in the sixth minute when Jonathan Hinjosa scored on an assist from Bryan Hernandez. The play was set up by short passing, allowing Birmingham to keep possession as it methodically moved down the field before Hernandez fed Hinjosa, who blasted a shot that deflected off an Indian defender and past the keeper.
“I think our balkline needs to step it up a bit,” Kodama said. “We had a little bit of a gap and they took advantage of it right in front of our backs to score two from outside. We’ll fix that. It’s early in the season. All new back line, four new guys.”
Burroughs (1-1-1) got one back on a tremendous individual effort by Xavi Izqueta in the game’s 33rd minute. The junior beat two defenders in the middle of the field by dribbling to his left before coming back across the middle. He then beat another Patriot by passing the ball around the defender to himself, before faking the goaltender out of position and firing a shot near-post that defender Kevin Lineres got his head onto. But the ball was already in the goal.
“We needed to score a goal,” Izqueta said. “so I just went through it and went for it. I’m glad it happened.”
However, less than five minutes later, Birmingham restored its two-goal advantage on a goal from Chris Garcia. Gerson Vasquez assisted on the score by receiving a long over-the-top free kick from near midfield before tapping a short pass to Garcia, who finished to make the halftime score 3-1 in favor of the visitors from the City Section.
Neither team scored in the second half, although Burroughs’ offense came to life and produced repeated quality chances. The two best opportunities came in the 56th and 58th minutes. The first saw Brandon Gerlach accept a cross on the ground deep in the box, briefly creating a one-on-one opportunity with Patriot goalkeeper Gerson Mejicanos. But as the Indian junior took his shot, Lineres slid in and deflected the ball wide.
Two minutes later, Burroughs’ Andres Aguilar got to a free ball in the middle of the field 10 yards outside the box and ripped a hard shot that was on goal. The shot was only turned away by a spectacular diving save by Mejicanos, who launched himself up and to his left, knocking the ball wide.
“We had our chances in the second half,” Kodama said. “We needed to get the one to be able to kind of fight through. It didn’t happen.”
Burroughs now moves into the consolation bracket and will play Monday at 5 p.m. against Saugus at Memorial Field.