Woodburn — An early season showdown of contenders in 5A and 4A soccer this season went down on Tuesday in Woodburn, featuring the Crescent Valley Raiders of the Mid-Willamette Conference and defending 5A champions, and the Woodburn Bulldogs, who won the 2019 4A title. For Woodburn, it was their season opener and first test of the season, as their game against 2020 4A champion and arch rival North Marion was canceled last week. Crescent Valley entered at 1-1 with a win over Thurston and a close loss to 6A Wells.
From the get go, this game was extremely physical on both sides and got tensions going a bit early on. The physicality played a role in the early offensive stalemate, with the girls not allowing much wiggle room to move the ball. In the eighth minute, Woodburn got a free kick and Cassidy Garibaldo delivered with a goal off the rebound from Mckenna Hunter’s save on Myranda Marquez’s kick, putting the Bulldogs ahead 1-0. For the rest of the half, the teams traded opportunities but nothing was good enough to deliver another score on, so Woodburn led 1-0 on Crescent Valley at the half.
In the second half, Woodburn hit a brick wall on offense and were unable to generate very many chances, partially credited to the aggressiveness of their goalkeeper McKenna Hunter and a physical Crescent Valley defense. Crescent Valley had opportunities, but they either missed the shot or were denied by Litzy Gonzalez. The Raiders finally broke through about halfway through the second half, as Meredith Merten delivered a great shot past Gonzalez on the outside of the box, tying the game up at 1-1. A couple minutes later, Merten had another prime opportunity 1v1 and delivered again, securing a 2-1 advantage and picking up a brace in less than five minutes.
With about ten minutes remaining, Woodburn had been pushing the ball hard and finally found a prime opportunity, as All-American Watchlist athlete Myranda Marquez got loose and caught a drawn out Hunter off guard, drilling a shot into the net and tying the game up at two apiece. With around three minutes left, Abby Smith delivered a couple of great chances at Gonzalez, but she robbed her on the first attempt and the second one was disrupted by the Bullldog defense. The horn would eventually sound, declaring the battle to be a draw between two great programs in the 5A and 4A divisions.
Crescent Valley: Shoot the ball! They got part of this figured out as the game got later, but their first half offense was defined as missed opportunities. They were plagued by set plays and crosses that broke down, along with stalling during decent chances to shoot at Gonzalez, resulting in a lack of offensive production. They were more free in the second half, but still hesitated during chance opportunities that were decent and opted to look for a better look, just to have Woodburn snatch the ball on the counterattack. Defensively, they were solid and did a good job containing Marquez, but she still beat the D and got a goal in the net. They need to tighten down on the back half of the defense when facing counterattacks, and it wouldn’t hurt to work to work on goalie support when facing corner and free kick threats.
Woodburn: Their defense was great for 60 minutes, but then it all collapsed in the span of five minutes. All the work they’d done to shut out the Raiders fell apart when they gave Merten two prime chances against Gonzalez, leaving her to fend for herself against a good offensive player. Its their first game of the season, which puts benefit of the doubt in their corner, but they need to play a full 80 minutes of defense against strong teams like Crescent Valley. The offense could do more to support their star Marquez, giving her better looks and more opportunities to shoot it or make a play to a teammate. When she isn’t available, they can do better to create opportunities by making the goalie stop the ball and going for rebounds when things look bleak for a set play or cross.
Crescent Valley (1-1-1) plays North Bend on Thursday, Woodburn (0-0-1) hosts Sweet Home next Tuesday.