Pasco boys soccer coach Matt Potter owns one of the best coaching records in the state of Washington over the last five seasons, with his teams winning nearly 70 percent of their games.
One thing he didn’t have as a coach is a district championship.
That changed Saturday when Pasco defeated Chiawana 2-0 for the Class 4A District 5A championship at Edgar Brown Stadium.
“This is what we’ve been working toward every year, every season,” said Potter, who is 60-27 as Pasco’s head coach and won a Big Nine district title with the Bulldogs as a player back in 1993. “I’m proud of the guys getting to this point.”
Pasco (12-5) will travel to Spokane to play Central Valley (12-2), the top seed out of the Greater Spokane League, at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The winner will earn the No. 1 seed to the Class 4A state tournament. The loser will play Tuesday’s winner between Chiawana (10-7) and Ferris (13-2) on Saturday.
Pasco won because of strong play up front and a shutdown mentality in back. Emilio Meraz-Rodriguez delivered a perfectly-timed through ball to forward Hector Magana in the 55th minute, and Magana beat Chiawana goalkeeper Fernando Gutierrez to the top right corner of the net to break a scoreless tie.
“They connect up incredibly well. They have spent countless hours together on the field,” Potter said of the duo. “But it’s not only those two. We had some passing sequences that were really well executed.”
Meraz-Rodriguez did his part to create opportunities in the opening minutes of the second half. He dribbled up the Riverhawks’ endline in the seventh minute and chipped a pass to the far post that eluded Hugo Gonzalez by inches. Two minutes later, Meraz-Rodriguez came flying in from the left wing with a header that required a tip save from Gutierrez.
The defense also did its part, holding one of the best forwards in the league, Cezar Leon, to just a couple shots on goal.
The Bulldogs’ back third of Sergio Avalos, Saul Chavez, Oswal Lopez and Joel Valle stood their ground in front of goalkeeper Jon Rosas, who recorded his eighth shutout of the year on five saves.
“I expected a lot of goals today. Both teams have good forwards and lots of goal scorers,” Rosas said. “They are a really tough team. Luckily, we got our chances, too, and were able to score.”
Rosas made one of his biggest saves of the season in the 74th minute, when Chiawana advanced the ball inside Pasco’s 18-yard box and got a chance to tie the game.
Following a high cross from the right wing, Riverhawks forward Brian Carrena headed the ball toward the near post. After Rosas made the initial stop, Carrena and his teammates believed the ball bounced off the post and crossed the goal line to tie the score at 1. However, the assistant referee — stationed on the right sideline — ruled that Rosas dived in to make the stop before the ball crossed the line completely.
Needless to say, Chiawana players and coaches were dismayed to find out a goal was not allowed.
“In my eyes, I believe it was (a goal). I guess the AR had a better view than I did,” said Leon, who was just a few feet from the play when it occurred. “I saw the ball barely go over the line. The goalie reached out and pulled it back.”
Rosas wasn’t sure he could even get there at first.
“I thought I wasn’t going to get to it,” Rosas said. “In my head, I’m like, should I go for it or should I not? I decided to take a chance and dive. Luckily, I blocked it and it hit the post, and then I was able to grab it.”
Chiawana’s frustration over the play resulted in two major missteps in the next few minutes. Pasco forward Miguel Chavez was fouled in the Riverhawks penalty box in the 75th minute, resulting in a penalty kick and another Bulldogs goal.
A minute after that, Chiawana defender Jesus Torres was issued a second yellow card after a tackle at midfield, resulting in a soft red card. The Riverhawks could replace Torres for the remaining four minutes, but he will be ineligible to play in Chiawana’s first-round regional matchup at Ferris.
“We’ll turn it into something positive. That’s how we’ll approach it,” Riverhawks coach Rich Zoller said. “But to be honest, it’s not a good thing. We wanted to win a district championship. Now my starting center back is out for Tuesday.”
Scoring—1, P, Hector Magana (Emilio Meraz-Rodriguez), 55:00; 2, P, Miguel Chavez (PK), 75:00. Shots—C 11, P 13. Saves—C, Fernando Gutierrez 5. P, Jon Rosas 5.