Tigers survive rough ESL match against Spartans

Dael Vega scores two goals as Woodlake remains undefeated on the season

By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN

WOODLAKE – The Tigers overcame some uncharacteristically sloppy play to defeat the Strathmore Spartans 3-0 in a physical East Sequoia League match-up last Thursday night.

“It was a tough win tonight,” Woodlake head coach Jose Palomo said. “We got some good breaks in the second half that we were able to capitalize on.”

From the first whistle Woodlake (8-0-3, 3-0) was pressured by Strathmore’s (2-3-1, 0-2) defense. The constant physical play set Woodlake back on their heels so much their main concern was just trying to clear the ball any way they could.

There were a couple moments when Woodlake was able to go on the offense, but they were off their game. Instead of trying to pass the ball and move it up the field, they got into a running match with the Spartans by trying to send long passes, and trying to run them down. Strathmore’s middle-back defender Enrique Gomez was there waiting and headed away many of the kicks.

The one scoring chance Woodlake had in the first half was when Carlos Torres bounced a direct kick off the cross bar in the 17th minute.

Palomo told his players to start settling the ball in the second half instead of trying to hit it over their heads. He wanted his players to begin to pass the ball into an open spot and let their speed run down the ball especially, along the sides of the field.

“We had to try and get their big man out of the middle,” Palomo said.
The adjustments began to work almost instantly, and after a couple Woodlake attacks the Strathmore defense began to spread out. That allowed Dael Vega to score after taking a pass in the middle of the field in the 7th minute.

“He is a solid player all the way around, but there are still some things we need to work on,” Palomo said.
Vega added his second goal of the game in 25th minute when he crashed in the box and finished a crossing pass from Carlos Torres.

Then just seconds later Richard Rodriguez scored to make it 3-0.

“It was a collaborative effort all the way around,” Palomo said.

Behind 3-0 frustration began to settle in for Strathmore. A Spartans’ mid-fielder drew a yellow card with a little more than two minutes left after shouldering a Tiger player as he ran by. Then the game was called in stoppage time after Strathmore’s assistant coach drew a red card for yelling at the official while he and head coach Jimmy Madrigal were out attending to an injured player who was involved in a collision while going up for a header.

“I put it on the referees,” Madrigal said. “They need to take control of the game. If they don’t do their job than it is going to get out of hand like it did.”

Woodlake will have the rest of this and the beginning of next week as they prepare for the Pioneer Valley Tournament on Dec. 28.

Strathmore played the Tulare Western Mustangs last night. The final happened after press time.

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