Goal in final minutes gives Pam Pack soccer third win of season

Published 3:51 pm Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Washington soccer team looked destined for a draw with West Carteret on Tuesday night after failing to finish off the numerous chances it created, but the Pam Pack’s persistence paid off, as Elvin Elizalde scored a late winner to give Washington a 2-1 victory.

“I think that we worked hard. I don’t think we played a very good game, but sometimes an ugly game you can still win,” Washington head coach Jim Kozuch said. “We found a way to put one in the back of the net and take the victory. We’re going to take it right now. We’re hungry, we want to win, but we’re still trying to find an identity.”

Washington (3-3) started off the match controlling much of the play and keeping West Carteret (0-7) pinned in its own half of the field. The Pam Pack opened the scoring eight minutes in, thanks to Elizalde. Midfielder Oscar Espinoza, who’s just returning from an injury, played a ball over the top of the Patriot backline for a streaking Elizalde, who fired a shot far post over the goalkeeper’s head and into the back of the net.

Washington continued to create opportunity after opportunity, but just couldn’t apply the finishing touch. Perhaps the Pam Pack’s best chance to add a second goal came with 20 minutes remaining in the opening half in what would’ve been a great team goal. Center back Cody Pinkham played a long diagonal ball for a sprinting Graham Parker down the left flank. Parker hit a first-time cross to Michael Reid, who was crashing the box. Reid beat a West Carteret defender and the goalkeeper to the cross, but his shot hit the corner of the goal where the crossbar and post meet and bounced out of bounds.

Washington was left to rue its blown opportunities when the Patriots scored a goal out of the blue with only two minutes left in the first half. The Pam Pack had possession of the ball near the West Carteret box, but West Carteret forced a turnover. Taking advantage of the fact Washington had many players pushed up in search of a goal, the Patriots swiftly counter-attacked and scored on a breakaway.

Washington nearly scored immediately, but Reid’s shot clanged off the post, and both teams went into the halftime break tied 1-1.

The second half played out much like the first, with the Pam Pack unable to finish any of the chances it created. The one difference is that Washington created more clear-cut scoring chances in the first half.

With less than 10 minutes remaining in the game, Washington seemed certain to be heading for a draw. But Elizalde rose to the occasion. The ball dropped to the senior forward off of a throw-in, and he smashed the ball into the West Carteret goal.

The inability to finish off goal-scoring chances is something Kozuch knows his team needs to fix, especially after being an issue for last season’s squad as well.

“We constantly are going over these drills, and I’m hoping at some point it’s going to click,” Kozuch said. “This (lack of finishing) was eventually the downfall of our season last year. We’ve got very good midfielders, and our defense can hang in it for the most part. But if we can’t score, it puts us in a tough situation.”

Despite his team not playing as well as he would’ve liked, Kozuch saw positives in the close win, including the ending of a two-game slide and the play of Elizalde.

“Winning is contagious, so we needed to get a win. Right off the bat we’ve had a couple of losses, so coming off the losses, that’s going to be the first positive, that we won,” Kozuch said. “For Elvin (Elizalde), he finished twice. He’s a guy that we need to have confidence. He works hard and putting a couple in the back of the net is really helpful. I think some other positives: we’re still finding guys that are looking good in different positions. We’re seeing more, we’re going to put it together. It’s taking a little bit longer than we would’ve hoped, but we’re going to be all right.”

Goal in final minutes gives Pam Pack soccer third win of season