McNary’s Jack Baez looks to get past a Lake Oswego defender in the Celtics 1-0 loss on Thursday, Sept. 5 (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).

Before the season started, McNary head coach Miguel Camarena was vocal about the desire he has for his team to be a better goal-scoring squad. 

It appears that the Celtics still have a lot of room for growth in that department. 

Despite numerous opportunities, McNary couldn’t put one into the back of the net as they fell to Lake Oswego 1-0 in their home opener on Thursday, Sept. 5. 

Lakers forward Aaron Rudder put away a penalty kick in the 30th minute for the game’s only score. 

“For the second game of the season, I though the boys had a good performance. But it was disappointing that we couldn’t finish,” Camarena said. “We came out a little flat in the first half.”

After not a lot of action in the first 20 minutes, McNary had a few different threats after the midway point of the first half. 

Eddie Martinez tried to hit Edgar Salazar cutting towards the net with a beautiful touch pass from the midfield, but Lake Oswego goalkeeper Johann Shahalami made a great read and left his box early to beat Salazar to the ball. 

Shahalami would make two additional saves in the following three minutes to turn McNary away.

In the 30th minute, Lake Oswego had a throw-in deep in Celtic territory. When the throw went into the box, McNary defender Sebastian Brunk jumped in the air to try and head the ball out of trouble. Instead, the ball incidentally glanced off Brunk’s hand, which led to the Lakers being awarded a penalty kick. 

Lake Oswego capitalized on the error as McNary keeper Alejandro Villarreal couldn’t get a hand on Rudder’s shot that punished the back of the net.

Even though he was beat on the penalty kick, Villarreal’s efforts in the net kept the Celtics in the game all night. 

Rudder had a chance to give his team a 2-0 lead before the end of the first half as he got behind the McNary back line for an open shot, but Villarreal was able to knock the ball away to keep the deficit at one. 

Villarreal continued this trend in the second half as well, knocking away multiple Lake Oswego shot attempts from point blank range. 

 “Without a doubt, I think (Villarreal) is the best goalkeeper in the conference,” Camarena said. “He’s a college-material goalkeeper and he’s going to help us big-time this year.”

The Celtics best opportunity to break even came in the 55th minute when Eli Petilo got loose on a breakaway and had a one-on-one opportunity with Shahalami in the box. 

Petilo aimed for the left-side of the goal, but Shahalami was able to get a hand up to block the shot and even kept Salazar from corralling the rebound.

While losing a game like this one would be tough for any team, Camarena hopes that the high competitive level of this early-season matchup will better prepare his team for what they will face during Mountain Valley Conference play. 

“I think it will help us improve mentally,” Camarena said. “We’re going to work to fix our mistakes and come back a better team.”

McNary returns to Flesher Field on Thursday, Sept. 19 to take on Madison at 7:30 p.m.