Strasburg boys get surprise win over Manassas Park

STRASBURG — Strasburg’s boys soccer team scored what had to be its biggest victory in at least six years Tuesday night, knocking off Bull Run District rival Manassas Park 2-1.

“I’ve been here six years,” Rams head coach Joel Ross said, “and this is the first time we’ve beaten them. They slaughtered us in the past, at least by eight goals on several occasions. Last year, they beat us 2-0 and 1-0, but this is the first time we’ve beaten them since I’ve been here.”

The victory was the first for Strasburg in its initial match of the season. Meanwhile, Manassas Park, which tied Clarke County 1-1 on Monday, fell to 0-1-1 in the district, 0-1-1 overall.

This was not only the opening match of the season for the Rams, but marked one of the only times they had been out on their pitch due to recent weather conditions. The temperature hovered about 60 degrees at the 7 p.m. kickoff, but by game’s end had dropped to 45 with blustery winds.

Strasburg won two matches last year and was winless two years ago.

“Now I have half as many wins as last year and it’s just our first game,” Strasburg captain Justin Carr said.

Carr, the sweeper on Strasburg’s five-man defensive backline, was a big reason for the win. So, too, were the Medrano brothers — Josue and Alex — who scored the two goals for the Rams in the second half. Manassas Park had taken a 1-0 advantage earlier in the frame.

Interestingly, the Medranos’ scores represented the only two shots on goal for the Rams of the half. Strasburg recorded eight shots on goal in the first 40 minutes, the same number as Manassas Park. In all, the visiting Cougars took 15 shots on Strasburg goalkeeper Damian Wolford, while the Rams came up with 10 for the match.

Manassas Park accounted for four corner kicks to Strasburg’s pair. The Cougars also had two indirect free kicks.

“To be honest, I think they were a little better than us, but we played well together and got the win,” Ross said. “We played awfully good defense in the first half.”

Strasburg made more than a handful of forays onto the Manassas Park defensive side in the first half, but could sustain few drives or long possessions on its offensive side of the pitch. Meanwhile, in both halves, the black-shirted Cougars spent long engagements in the Rams’ half of the field.

“They put a lot of pressure on us, particularly in the second half,” Ross said. “But we were able to stay with them and — except for their one goal — we did a pretty good job.”

Strasburg had an excellent shot for at least one goal near the end of the scoreless first frame.

The Rams had two shots back-to-back on goalkeeper Jonathan Gonzalez, but both went wide. Even after the missteps, Strasburg had one last rebound and a shot that bent outside in the same sequence.

In the 31st minute of the second half, Manassas Park creased the goal for the first time. Andy Donyina, a strapping junior who ran the Cougar offense for the night, went to his right, froze Strasburg’s goaltender, Wolford, then took a step inside the Ram junior and pushed the goal into the net.

With 5:50 showing in the game Manassas Park coach David Stokes switched goalies. Out came the starter, Gonzalez, and in came backup Antonio Jimenez-Morales.

“I don’t think [Gonzalez] was hurt. I think they wanted to give their other keeper some experience, and they were ahead,” Ross said.

The Rams made them pay.

The Medrano brothers — Josue, the sophomore, and Alex, the junior — were a skilled pair with speed. Each one drew out Jimenez-Morales, but the brothers attacked the back-up goalkeeper differently.

Josue fetched a long, through-ball assist from sophomore Logan Smalls, and then, with Jimenez-Morales rushing him, sent in a shot from perhaps 12 feet out from his right to the goalie’s left. Alex, too, saw Jimenez-Morales cheating forward, then matched him step-for-step. Alex got the goalkeeper on his heels and dribbled the ball into the goal.

“You have to keep your eye on the ball, the defender and the goal,” Alex Medrano said. “when I saw him come toward me, I just went by him.”

While the Medrano brothers supplied the offense, it was a back line orchestrated by Carr that did the job against relentless pressure from the Cougars.

“We play a back line of five men and Justin is our sweeper. So it’s up to him to keep everyone organized and into the play,” said Ross.

“It’s really about communication, that and confidence,” Carr said. “I know that if I go for the ball, somebody will be there to pick me up. We made the rotations.”