Celtics falter down the stretch against Saxons

McNary defender Aldair Cruz Barocio attempts to stop the South Salem attack (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).

The McNary boys’ soccer team played competitively against eighth-ranked South Salem for the majority of the game. However, the Celtics faltered in the final minutes of the contest.

With the game tied at 1-1 late in the second half, South Salem scored three goals in the last six minutes of the game to defeat McNary 4-1 on Friday, Oct. 1.

“It once again came down to a lack of concentration in the last 10 minutes. It’s ridiculous and it can’t happen. It has cost us two games. We have to be better,” McNary head coach Miguel Camarena said.

After missing out on a couple early chances, the Celtics scored in the seventh minute to take a 1-0 lead.

Junior midfielder Owen Alston tracked down a through ball down the sideline and sent a cross into the middle of the field towards the net. A South Salem defender attempted to clear the ball, but accidentally knocked it into the goal, putting McNary up 1-0.

It was the second straight home game Alston was credited with a goal that was hit in by the opposing team.

“I guess my crosses are so good that I can get opposing players to score them for me,” joked Alston.

McNary had two other golden opportunities in the first half, including a shot-on-goal with an empty net, but couldn’t capitalize on either attempt as the score stayed 1-0 at half.

“We had the ability to put the game away in the first half, but we couldn’t score when we needed to,” Camarena said.

McNary goalkeeper Tayson Whetten played an impressive first half, keeping the Saxons out of the net with a number of diving saves. But in the 52nd minute, South Salem forced the McNary keeper out of position and were able to take advantage.

Whetten was attempting to get to a ball just outside the goalie box near the boundary. However, a South Salem player beat him to the punch and crossed it into the middle. Whetten was unable to get back into position before Saxons forward Frank Kilongo sent a bicycle kick into the back of the net to tie the game at 1-1.

“It was a tactical mistake and it cost us. It happens, but we have to regroup,” Camarena said.

The game remained tied at 1-1 for the next 22 minutes as both teams battled to gain the upper hand. But in the final six minutes, McNary began to fall apart.

After getting fouled about 25 yards away from the net, South Salem forward Nathan Martinez placed a free kick just past the outstretched hands of Whetten and into the upper right-and corner of the post to give the Saxons their first lead.

The goal was deflating to the Celtics, and it was easy to see as the Saxons took advantage of McNary’s poor defensive play to score two more easy goals in the final six minutes.

“I felt like, personally, that I fell short in the first half. As a team, when South tied it up at 1-1, we lost our composure,” Owen said.

“We need to play a complete 80 minutes,” added Camarena.

McNary returns home on Tuesday, Oct. 12 to host Sprague at 7 p.m.

Matt Rawlings: [email protected]