McNary defender Nic Heath searches for a teammate in the Celtics 2-1 loss to West Salem (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).

Despite outshooting West Salem by a large margin, the McNary boys soccer team couldn’t overcome the Titans two second half goals as the Celtics dropped their conference opener 2-1 on Tuesday, Oct 1.

“That wasn’t good enough for us. We had opportunities to put the game away and we didn’t. We were not sharp in the final third,” McNary head coach Miguel Camarena said. 

The Celtics came out as the aggressor in the first half, outshooting West Salem 7-1 in the first 12 minutes of the contest. 

Midway through the half, McNary forward Edgar Salazar hit Eli Petilo with a cross-field pass in the box. Petilo was able to put the shot away, but a late offsides call wiped away the goal for McNary. 

Salazar, as well as Luis Lopez, both had free kick opportunities from close range moments later, but each attempt banged off the crossbar.

“We had plenty of shots, but the goals didn’t want to come tonight,” Salazar said. 

West Salem had a couple chances to break the scoreless tie before halftime, but the fantastic goalkeeping of Alejandro Villarreal kept the game at 0-0 going into the break. 

In the 40th minute, West Salem’s Andres Labate got loose with a great spin move to give himself space and fired a shot for the corner of the net. But with a full-extended dive, Villarreal knocked the ball away. Kaden Young had a chance to score on the rebound, but his shot went wide right as McNary dodged a bullet going into the break. 

However, on the second half kickoff, the Titans caught the McNary defense back on their heels. 

Labate took the ball and dribbled through the entire Celtics back line to put away a score in the first 30 seconds of the half to give West Salem the 1-0 lead.

“We made a mistake in the back and (Labate) went through three or four of our guys. That can’t happen,” Camarena said. “Defensively, I thought we looked weak at times. We have to get that fixed. We allowed them too much space.”

Ten minutes later, the Titans struck again. 

After it appeared that Young had gotten away with a hand-ball, the Titans sophomore forward gathered the ball and fired a shot that found the back of the net, extending West Salem’s lead to 2-0. 

In the 67th minute, the Celtics had their best look of the night when McNary’s Jack Baez beat his defender into the box, and then crossed the ball over to teammate Elio Carella after the West Salem keeper dove at the ball.

But despite having an empty net, Carella was unable to get a good touch on the ball and his shot sailed over the post.

Even though things were looking dim for McNary, Salazar gave his team a glimmer of hope in the 75th minute. 

Lopez earned a free kick on the far right side after getting fouled by a pair of West Salem defenders. On the free kick, Lopez fired a missile into the middle to Salazar, who got a clean header on the ball that glanced of the keeper’s gloves and found the twine for the score. 

“I could tell that the defense was sleeping, so I screamed for Luis and he heard me and gave me a great ball,” Salazar said. “I was able to get a header on it to get us back in the game.”

But in the final five minutes of the contest, McNary failed to get another good look, allowing West Salem to get their fifth win of the season.

It won’t get easier for McNary moving forward as they host sixth-ranked Summit on Friday afternoon at 4 p.m.

“We got to bounce back against Summit. That is going to be a tough game,” Salazar said.