Saturday’s Boys Soccer: Barragan’s Breakaway Goal Sends United to the Semis
Making History: Win Clinches Program’s First Appearance in State Final Four
By Jordan Nailon
WINLOCK — After 55 minutes had eclipsed off the scoreboard with a first rate stalemate still intact here on Saturday a spectator could almost visualize the winning goal transpire before it actually settled in the back of the net.
It was a sailing through pass from Andreas Malunat that bounced high on the grass before finding space in the middle of the King’s defense during the second half of United’s 1A boys soccer state quarterfinal contest. When Gustavo Barragan gathered control of the ball with a slight edge on a pair of defenders the home crowd stood up in unison and seemed to will the ensuing shot past the diving mittens of the opponent’s goalkeeper.
Call it intuition. Call it wishful thinking. Call it the power of two towns united. Call it whatever you want, but all that matters now is that it worked and with a 1-0 victory over King’s the team from Toledo and Winlock is set to play in the first semifinal game of the program’s long history.
Barragan said once he got an advantage on the King’s defenders he know exactly what he was going to do. With a goalie charging out fast to confront him near the center edge of the box Barragan went with his most trusted shot selection, a low punch to the right, and it paid off in spades.
“In the second half it was a really even match so when they sent me that through ball I just placed it and scored and after that we just started defending our butts off because we really wanted to make it to the final four,” said Barragan.
King’s managed to outshoot United 12-4 in the contest but Alan Contreras played another stingy game in front of the net in order to keep the visitors off the scoreboard. Two of those shots looked like surefire goals right off the boot but Contreras managed to get a body on both shots much to the dismay of a King’s team that seemed to be in desperation mode for much of the contest.
Barragan said he and his teammates felt no such anxiety, particularly once they had a lead. That’s the sort of confidence that comes from playing with a battle tested defensive unit like the one that United boasts.
“We just trusted our defense after that and we trusted Alan because once we went up in that game on Wednesday, I mean, when we were up we all just defended back and we got that win because of Alan and our defense,” explained Barragan.
Horst Malunat, the United coach who is in his final season at the helm, said that once his team got a read on the type of offense King’s preferred he was confident they would be able to hold off any charge. Malunat added that once Contreras managed to shut down their best shot attempts he could sense the desperation level beginning to rise.
“They play that real direct, real psycho soccer, and they’re good but that’s the style of soccer that coach wants. The thing is you either live by it or you die by it and they unraveled as soon as we scored that goal,” observed Malunat. “That style was actually their biggest opponent then.”
For Malunat and his senior heavy squad it was their final contest on their home field that they’ve taken to calling “The Fortress” due to their knack for successfully defending it from invading teams. A loss would have meant an end to not only their season, but also their long run together on the pitch. With such high stakes on the line Malunat made sure to remind his charges throughout the game that cooler heads would prevail.
“Every time we had a set piece where the ball went out of bounds I reminded them, let’s calm down. Let’s take a breath because we don’t want to get into their really frenzied game,” said Malunat.
Early in the game Isaac Cruz was felled by a leg injury after he and a defender collided. At halftime he taped up his leg and attempted a return to the field but it didn’t take long for another collision to knock him out of the game for good. Malunat said the injury has been lingering throughout the season but he holds hope that his senior midfielder will be healthy enough to play next week.
In the meantime, United had to figure out what to do in order to get by King’s while one of their stalwart players was sidelined.
“He’s definitely been one of the people, a catalyst, who helps us in the middle. But we have other guys who can go in and we have a gameplan in case he can’t. That’s all we can do is just say hey, we’ve got Plan A, Plan B, and sometimes you’ve got to go to plan C,” said Malunat.
The United coach tabbed Tima Kozubakov, an international exchange student, as the player who stepped up big when his teammates needed him most on Saturday.
“Tima was a part of Plan C and he did a great job,” said Malunat.
United (17-0-4) will play on Friday at Sunset Chev Stadium in Sumner at 4 p.m. against the winner of the Klahowya/Overlake quarterfinal contest.
No matter who they play, Barragan said it feels good to have taken care of all their business on their home pitch all season long to cap off an impressive four-year run.
“It feels great because yesterday we were talking about how it was going to be our last practice here no matter what. Because after this we’re going to practice on turf,” said Barragan. “Up in Sumner it’s all turf.”