By Ray Hamill — The race for the league title in H-DNL boys soccer looks like it will go down to the wire after the top two teams played out a scoreless tie on Tuesday evening.
Playing for the second time in league play, the Eureka Loggers and Arcata Tigers finished deadlocked for the second time in league play, this time at Arcata.
That, however, could be seen as an advantage for the Tigers, who have one more win in league play than the Loggers, who also tied Fortuna.
“We just have to win out and do our part,” Eureka head coach Eddie Garcia said.
For much of the past decade, both of these teams have lived in the shadow of the Fortuna Huskies dynasty, and while one of them is likely to be crowned league champs this year — or perhaps both of them — we still don’t know which of them that will be.
As usual when Arcata and Eureka meet, there was little to separate them for much of the game, although the Loggers had the better of exchanges in the opening half and created the better opportunities.
“We left feeling we deserved a little more, especially in the first half,” Garcia said. “In the first half, we had two or three chances we didn’t put away.
“But you know, that’s the game. Arcata’s a good team, we’re a good team.”
Tigers head coach John Davidson was a little disappointed in how his team performed.
“It wasn’t the prettiest performance on our part,” he said. “We switched our shape up a little bit and wanted to experiment with some changes, and I don’t think it worked. The last 15 minutes we went back and I thought that was our best stretch of the game.
Check out some of the second-half highlights above …
“(The result) is not the end of the world, but it definitely felt like one of our worst performances of the season.”
Goalkeeper Sean Shermer did his part to keep the Tigers on level terms in the opening half, making a handful of big saves.
“Sean really kept us in it in the first half,” Davidson said. “He was the man big-time for us today.”
The game was certainly physical and the Loggers felt that the home team persistently fouled influential Eureka midfielder Tomas Paoli, who was outstanding once again.
“Tomas Paoli had probably his best game all year,” said Garcia, who added that the only way Arcata could stop him was to foul him. “It speaks to the quality of the game he had.”
Davidson admitted it was a physical game, as is often the case when these rivals meet.
“It wasn’t dirty physical,” the Arcata coach said. “It was just close to the edge.”
Paoli worked well with teammates Trenton Gerber and Will Mooney in midfield, as the trio continue to have a big influence on games.
Jiagdae Her and Joe Morris also did a good job at the back for the Loggers, frustrating a dangerous Arcata attack.
Senior Isaac Johnson also had a big game in defense for the Tigers.
“Isaac is just Mr. Reliable,” Davidson said. “He’s super consistent.”
With four games remaining each, both teams will most likely have to continue winning to keep the pressure on the other.
Both teams also have remaining games against the Fortuna Huskies, who could yet play a big role in deciding where the championship ends up.
Arcata hosts Fortuna on Thursday and Eureka plays at Fortuna next Tuesday.
The Huskies, meanwhile, won on Tuesday and have now lost just once in their last seven games.
Leonardo Herrera scored a pair of second-half goals as Fortuna won 3-1 at McKinleyville.
Pedro Ramirez scored for a young Panthers team that pushed the defending champs all the way.
“I was very happy with the way we played,” McKinleyville head coach Ryne Deppe said.
Gino Gonzalez had a good game anchoring the defense for the Panthers, while Flynn Creighton helped solidify the midfield, winning 50/50 balls and passing the ball well.