Riverside Military seemed to control much of the soccer match Tuesday, but failed to hold the advantage on the scoreboard in a 1-0 loss to Winder-Barrow High as the two squared off in Gainesville.
The fifth-ranked Eagles (4-2-1, 1-0 Region 8-AA) kept pressure on the Bulldoggs’ (6-0-1, 2-0 Region 8-AAAAA) back line, and even broke into a one-on-one situation on three different occasions, but always came up empty.
Winder-Barrow made pushes of its own offensively, but it was an unassisted smash from 25 yards out that gave the visitors the ultimate game winner.
Midfielder Eduardo Saucedo received the ball on a pass from the left sideline back through the middle of the field. The junior then took three touches toward the right side of the 18-yard box and rocketed the ball off his right foot, curling the ball away from the Riverside Military goalkeeper.
Tuesday’s game was just the second of the season for Saucedo, who’s been out with an ankle injury.
“He’s a great player and it’s great to have him back,” Bulldoggs’ coach Levi Karas said. “He’s now scored two in two games. He scored the one to beat Heritage on Friday and then (Tuesday). Definitely good to have him back in the middle. He’s got a nose for the goal and he’s very calm in the midfield.”
That goal, which came in the 19th minute, was the first shot of the game for the Bulldoggs.
From there, the game became an even bigger battle for the Eagles.
“We knew they were going to be a tough team for us, that’s why I scheduled them,” said Riverside Military coach Diego Vacca. “I wanted a tough game for us. I think we put the pressure on them and tried to put it in, we just couldn’t get it in.
“That’s part of the game. You fight your fight and sometimes it doesn’t work your way,” he continued. “I was really excited about how they handled it.”
Riverside Military battled the entire night to get into the offensive third of the field and concluded the match with seven total shots, though only one was on goal.
The lone shot on goal for the Eagles came inside the final two minutes, but was saved by Winder-Barrow goalkeeper Hayden Morgan.
Despite not scoring Tuesday, Vacca said the contest helped him learn a lot about his guys.
“It tells me the character the players have, how they handle a team that is equally or sometimes better than them,” he said. “It’s just building up for what is to come with the state tournament, if we are lucky enough to make it.”
Vacca hopes coming away scoreless manifests itself into a barrage of goals against the Eagles’ next opponent.
“We have a game on Friday against Union County,” Vacca said. “Maybe all this anger about not putting the goals in will transfer to the game on Friday.”
As for Winder-Barrow, Karas said the team’s undefeated season has been a year in the making.
“We were very young last year and had to struggle to get some wins in last year,” Karas said. “We had a lot of really close games, overtimes and ties last season, but we got a lot of experience for the younger guys. That’s paying off this season. We’re seeing the fruits of all that we sowed last season.”
The Bulldoggs had three shots in the first half, with all on goal, but failed to get a true shot off in the second half.
According to Karas, that lack of second-half shooting was in substitutions to sure up the defense for the expected onslaught attacks that come with having a 1-0 lead.
“Having a 1-0 lead is a scary thing in soccer,” Karas said. “That’s a tough lead to hold, especially going into the second half. I wanted to make sure the defense was solid with a lot of my stud guys and make sure my midfield was strong. My substitutions were a little more strategic in the offense.”
Still, despite the undefeated record thus far, Karas knows there are tests ahead in the Region 8-AAAAA schedule.
“We’re undefeated to this point and have two region wins,” he said. “The next two weeks we have a really tough road with Gainesville and Lanier and it keeps rolling from there.
“We’re going to have to take it game by game and get after it and pay attention to the fundamental stuff and grind the next few out,” Karas continued.
Riverside will travel to Union County Friday for a 7 p.m. kick.
Winder-Barrow will host Gainesville at 7:30 p.m. Friday.