North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

March 13, 2013

Boys soccer: No. 8 Pinson Valley 1, No. 7 Homewood 0

Almandarez's goal off a rebound is the match winner

By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News

PINSON — When a point-blank shot by Homewood’s Edward Demetz clanked off the cross bar and out of play midway through the second half, Pinson Valley coach Chris Mills said half out loud, “Rather by lucky than good.”

Ten minutes later, Mills realized how true that statement was.

Josh Almandarez was in the right place when the ball came off the block of the Patriot keeper, then bounced off the crossbar toward him. Almandarez promptly put the ball in the net for the only goal of the game, as Pinson won a 1-0 thriller in Wednesday boys soccer.

The goal only served to reinforce something Mills tells his team at every practice.

“We harp and harp and harp, ‘Crash the goal, crash the goal, crash the goal,’ just for those type of things. You never know when the ball is going to come off the keeper’s hands or off the crossbar. Amazingly, we ended up with a kid in the right place at the right time,” Mills said.

The clash between the Indians and Patriots was highly touted, with Homewood ranked sixth and Pinson (8-3-3) seventh in the Alabama High School Soccer Coaches Association Class 5A poll, and the contest lived up to expectations.

Scoring chances were few, as defensive lines held their ground and attackers had a hard time connecting on crossing passes into the penalty area. The first half was a battle for field position that neither side won. The Patriots (8-5) sometimes struggled with a field surface that had a few bumps, making ground passes occasionally unpredictable. The Indians got around that issue with short flick passes that found their way through the midfield.

Almandarez came fairly close to another goal not long before he scored, but his sharp-angle crossing shot went across the face of the goal.

It was a good night for Indians goalkeeper Jaime Vargas, who turned away six shots on goal.

“Jaime has come on strong,” Mills said. “He had a couple of questionable performances early in the season, but he’s competitive and has turned it up since. He had 12 saves against Spain Park, and tonight he made a couple of unbelievable plays.”

Homewood came off a Tuesday win over second-ranked John Carroll Catholic on Tuesday, but did not look the worse for wear. They used their height advantage for leading passes into attack, but Pinson’s swarming defense often got a foot on the ball to disrupt a drive and clear the ball away.