The Pilots took Merlo Field one last time this regular season on Saturday night. Portland fell just short to St. Mary’s 1-0.
Portland started the game missing two of their biggest impact players, juniors Benji Michel and Rey Ortiz. Both would later enter the game as subs in the 33rd minute.
For most of the first half, the two teams took turns pushing the ball up the field. Portland was the aggressor early but could not seem to put the final passes together to capitalize on any of their attacks.
The game was physical in the first half despite the referee handing out fouls liberally. The Gaels ended the first half with two yellow cards to the Pilots’ one.
The Gaels struck first late in the first half off of a free kick that found the top right corner of the goal. The free kick was set up following a foul by striker Michel, who verbally disagreed with the call.
“Sometimes a guy steps up and makes an incredible free kick and that's the difference in the game,” explained head coach Nick Carlin-Voigt, “I could not be more proud of our team and everything we represent. We played really well.”
The Pilots went into the locker room at halftime trailing 0-1, with the momentum swinging St. Mary’s way.
The Pilots then came out of the half aggressive and looking to tie the game. Multiple times Portland came close to finding the elusive equalizer they desperately searched for.
The closest moment came for the Pilots in the 80th minute. The ball was sent flying into St. Mary’s goalie box from the corner before bouncing off a few players and finding the back of the net. The game seemed to be tied 1-1, but seconds later referee Adrian Gonzalez called a push against Portland that took the goal off the board.
The backline of St. Mary’s continued to weather the storm as they held tight, not letting Portland find the goal they needed.
“We had a good game. It's unfortunate the ball did not want to go in the back of the net,” junior midfielder Gio Magana Rivera said. “We played well defensively. The ball just did not bounce our way.”
Defensively both teams held up their end of the bargain as both teams were limited in quality chances. Portland finished with one shot on target to St. Mary’s two.
The Pilots will now wait to hear whether or not they will get the nod from the NCAA selection committee to play in the NCAA Road to the Championship for a chance to compete for the College Cup. The committee will make their selections Monday Nov. 12th.
Jamison White is a sports reporter at The Beacon. He can be reached at email@example.com.