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Russellville-Florence friendly results in draw

Russellville head soccer coach Trey Stanford was feeling pretty good when he departed from Golden Tiger Stadium on Tuesday night. His Golden Tigers drew 2-2 with Florence in a scheduled summer exhibition, and even though the result will never appear in any official record book, it was enough to give the second-year head coach an increased sense of optimism as his team works towards the 2018 season.

“The last two times we played Florence we lost 3-1, 3-1,” Stanford said, referring to a regular season match-up last year and an exhibition game played earlier this summer. “That’s a well-established program, and they’re always a tough team to play against, so I was proud of the guys and how they played.”

The Golden Tigers opened up the scoring early in the first half when a perfectly-placed through ball by rising senior Daniel Carranza found the feet of striker Esvin Mateo in the space between the defender and the Florence goalkeeper. Mateo, without precision, chipped the ball up and over the incoming Falcon keeper, clipping the bottom half of the crossbar and finding the back of the net.

“Oh, it was a thing of beauty,” Stanford said. “Esvin Mateo is a great soccer player, and he’s got great speed and quickness. He showed you what he can do with the ball; he’s a good finisher, and he’ll be a really key guy for us next season.”

Both teams would have additional opportunities to score, but no other goals would be allowed until Florence opened up the second half with two quick goals.

The first for the Falcons came off a counter-attack. A Florence striker cut between the back line and took a shot on goal, which Russellville goalkeeper Jesus Betancourt deflected. Unfortunately for the Golden Tigers, the deflection put the ball right back at the feet of the Falcon forward, who tapped it in for the score.

The second goal for Florence came soon after the first one. A “mental mistake” by Russellville allowed the Falcons to regain possession. A few passes later, the Golden Tiger defense found itself out of position once more and allowed Florence to smash the ball into the net again.

Stanford could live with the first goal but said Florence’s second one could have been prevented.

“We had a mental lapse, made some bad decisions, nobody was calling for the ball or really talking to each other on that one, and it gave Florence a good opportunity to score,” Stanford said. “In a real game, those kinds of mistakes are what get you beat, so that’s an example of some things we still have to improve on. But I think without that one mistake, we probably would’ve won 2-1.”

Florence’s go-ahead goal did not discourage the Russellville side, however. The go-to goal-scorer for Russellville, rising senior Andy Alonso, had been making good runs against the Florence defense all night, but to that point all had been unsuccessful. After Florence’s second goal, Alonso found one final run that would prove to be the equalizer.

Following a flurry of shots by Florence, the Russellville defense held strong and Betancourt was able to punch the ball out from around the goal, paving the way for a Golden Tiger counter-attack.

The cleared ball found the feet of Carranza, who quickly pushed it down to midfield where he found Alonso streaking into Falcon territory. Carranza’s through ball, intended for Alonso, was nearly perfect, but the Florence goalkeeper beat the striker to the spot. However, to Alonso’s pleasant surprise, the keeper could not control the ball and it bounced past him. Alonso seized the opportunity and easily struck the ball into the center of the open net, tying the game at the final 2-2 score.

“Andy is a great player and obviously a great scorer,” Stanford said. “He always pretty good at putting himself in a position to score.”

Mateo and Alonso receive the lion’s share of the attention for scoring the two Golden Tiger goals, but Stanford was fully aware of the one guy who was heavily involved in both goals: Daniel Carranza.

In the first goal sequence, Carranza’s through ball was placed in only a position where his teammate could put a foot on it. And Carranza was the player who started the second-half counter-attack, pushing the ball past the Florence defenders and giving Alonso the opportunity to make a play and score the final goal.

“Danny is a creator, that’s what he does, and on both of those goals he was the key contributor,” Stanford said. “Honestly, he’s one of the best – if not the best – overall player I’ve ever coached. He’s extremely talented on both sides of the ball, his skill with the ball is incredible, and he controls the middle of the field for us.”

Stanford also praised Carranza’s counterpart in the midfield, Cedrick Mojica.

“Cedrick’s right there with (Carranza),” he said. “We’ve got so much talent in the midfield and those guys are the main reason why.”

After the game, Stanford said he was proud of the progress being made by individual players and his team as a whole.

“Returning guys like David Baltazar and Sam Bahena and then some new guys like Artero (Betancourt) and Christian (Cano), who are going to play a lot for us, they have improved a ton just in the time we’ve had this summer,” Stanford said. “Our team keeps improving and growing and I can see that.”

“We’ve still got to work to do on our passing and one-touch passes and our movement without the ball, but those are things we’re going to keep getting better at this summer. By the time spring rolls around, I think we’ll be in good shape.”

Russellville is set to host Tanner in another home friendly on Thursday, June 22. The girls’ game will be at 5:30 p.m. with the boys’ match following at 7 p.m.

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