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East boys cement spot atop 59-4A soccer standings

Feb. 22, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Updated Feb. 21, 2012 at 8:22 p.m.

Victoria East's Joel Gonzalez goes up against Victoria West's Nathan Hermes during the first half of Tuesday night's rivalry game at Memorial Stadium. The Titans defeated the Warriors 2-1.

It was no secret that the game was going to be won in the midfield.

As things turned out, all three goals in Tuesday's game between Victoria East and Victoria West were scored by midfielders.

"It's just a rivalry game that just shows the passion both teams have for the sport," said East soccer coach Tim Eaton. "They all played so hard. We were fortunate to get those two goals in. we had some other opportunities, but they did as well."

East midfielders hassled and pressured West throughout the opening 20 minutes, forcing the Warrior attacks to become disjointed before they reached the final third.

Cole Fimbel opened the scoring with a whizzing shot through the West defense in the 12th minute. Senior midfielder Casey Brown scored three minutes later.

Those two blasts were enough to lift the Titans to a 2-1 victory over the Warriors. East (12-1-1) remained atop District 59-4A with a 5-0-1 record through the first half of district play.

Brown said a win over their rivals was a big motivation heading into the second half of district play.

All season long Brown has been the most defensive of the three midfielders, which allows Fimbel and Joel Gonzales to freelance and create. But, when the chances arrive, the senior captain is unafraid to take them.

A deflected shot made its way to Brown. He took a touch and fired for the second goal of the game, a shot that West goalkeeper Juan Gonzalez was powerless to stop.

"Since last year I have played nothing but attacking midfielder and outside mid," Brown said. "It's a lot different, but coach thinks I do a good job of controlling the middle and winning the ball. He put me there and it seems to be working out so far."

West's first attack led to a scoring chance. East committed a foul inside their own penalty area 20 minutes into the game, to give the Warriors their first shot attempt on goal. Goalie Ricky Stratmann was beaten, but the penalty kick went outside the post, much to the relief of the Titans.

"It was real quick. Their midfield, they were switching around a lot and it was making things confusing," said West senior midfielder Felipe Bastida. "We would play it down the wings and the side and get in crosses. We were getting a couple shots us, but our worst part was probably not staying on their midfield. That's what messed us up."

The miss seemed to get West into the game. Though they couldn't breach the Titan defense in the first 40 minutes, they did force Stratmann to make four first half saves.

The best might have been with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. Ernesto Perez' right-footed shot was heading for the bottom corner, but Stratmann got down to his right to tip the ball around the post for a corner kick.

Thirty seconds later Stratmann left the game after picking up an apparent injury. He returned midway through the second half, but by then the game was a lot closer than when he left the game.

AJ Cervantes entered the game, but West was unable to force him to make a save in the 20-plus minutes he was in goal. West captain Felipe Bastida converted a penalty kick with 22 minutes remaining, against Cervantes, to set up an intense climax to the rivalry game.

The Warriors (7-8-2, 2-3-1 district) had two shots blocked in the goalmouth as time expired.

"We made mistakes in the beginning that put us down," Bastida said. "We started giving up, but at halftime we had a talk. Coach pumped us up again and picked our heads back up. We came out strong. We tried, we had a couple chances, but we couldn't put it in the back of the net."

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