Winlock Junior Adair Garibay (left) heads a ball while being shoved by a La Center player on Saturday. T/W United defeated the Wildcats 3-2, with Garibay contributing an assist and a goal.
Toledo/Winlock United soccer is in a good place this spring, after five consecutive victories/ties to claim the spot atop the 1A Trico League soccer standings.
Their latest notch will be one chatted about for years to come after league rival La Center descended on Winlock Saturday with upset on their minds. The Wildcats were responsible for United's only league loss this year, as well as the third in a trio of consecutive losses (the others were non-league losses to Centralia and W.F. West) in the early season.
La Center has been the pesky older brother through the years and Saturday's match-up proved no different as the Wildcats scored off a header in the first minute of the game, giving United a rude enough wake-up that the two teams played to a stalemate for the next 39 minutes.
La Center scored their second goal ironically after United gave the ball to the Wildcat keeper as a gesture of sportsmanship when a visiting player was briefly injured. The goalkeeper booted the ball beyond most T/W defenders and the Wildcats gratefully deposited a breakaway goal.
Five minutes later, United caught a break when Johnathon Van Vleck was fouled just inside the penalty box and last year's league MVP Adair Garibay beat the Wildcat keeper for a PK.
Four minutes after that, Raul Plancarte took a Garibay pass and worked around the diving La Center goalie and left several blue clad athletes in pursuit as he simply dribbled the ball into the net.
In the 72nd minute, Fernando Munoz challenged the Wildcat defenders in front of the goal and, like so many times, appeared to be on the verge of coming up short. The ball escaped to the left of Munoz and a Wildcat defender only to have United's Orlando Hurtado slide in out of nowhere and deposit it into the net, helping ensure a very dramatic victory for the home team.
United Head Coach Horst Malunat was complimentary of his team, especially Hurtado and Plancarte.
"We really try to build the ball up and move it and attack," said Malunat. "We had Orlando, who contributed, and Raul, who hasn't done much, but you really need the whole team to step up."
In the closing moments of the contest, the La Center Goal keeper was sent off, and then a second Wildcat player was red carded as the teams left the field.
"We frustrated them," said Malunat. "We got back in the game when they got frustrated. That is what happens when you frustrate people, they get upset. I tell the kids that, if we don't upset somebody, then we are not working hard enough,"
Clearly soccer is a game of composure, and this day the United players stood more behind their skill than their emotion.
The win puts United all alone atop the Trico standings (6-1-1 in league, 7-3-2 overall) with four matches to go and all of them essentially at home after a grueling road schedule.
"We have four games left and it will be tough," said Malunat. "We will just take one game at a time. If we do win out, the cool thing is that we will win league."
The final stretch of games will proceed with a challenging opponent in Stevenson who, is just a loss behind United in the league standings, this Tuesday evening in Winlock.