Parkdale High School boys' soccer coach Sadak Abukar doesn't have a specific player designated to take his team's corner kicks or free kicks.
Instead, he observes who is playing best during the match and rewards them with set-piece opportunities.
On Friday afternoon at DuVal High, in a matchup between the Panthers and Tigers in the first round of the Class 4A South Region tournament, that player was Laurel Gonzalez.
The junior left back already had accounted for Parkdale's first goal of the match, and In the 76th minute, he stepped to the ball roughly 35 yards from goal. With a solid left-footed strike, his kick dipped over the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Sam Koroma to give the Panthers a two-goal lead and all the insurance they'd need in a 3-0 victory against DuVal. Parkdale is scheduled travel to High Point to take on the top-seeded Eagles on Tuesday.
“Since Laurel was already on the board, and he's left-footed, we gave him a crack at it and he came through,” said Abukar, a former Parkdale soccer player in his second year at the helm.
Parkdale (6-4-1) dominated the match from whistle to whistle as the Tigers (3-8-1) were behind from the start — literally. Because of a miscommunication, DuVal's players were still in class at 3 p.m. when the match was scheduled to begin. So when school was dismissed at 3:10, they rushed out, warmed up and readied for the 3:30 kickoff.
To make matters worse, the Tigers' regular goalkeeper, Andy Akotia, was at a doctor's appointment for a hip injury he suffered while kicking for the football team. That forced field player Philipe Ayres into goal, and later Koroma. Neither had goalkeeping gloves and it was a clear disadvantage for the Tigers, who finished their season on a six-game losing streak.
“We were a bit shorthanded, position-wise and with experience today,” said first-year DuVal coach Ramius McPhatter.
Gonzalez's first goal was similar to his second. This one came after a quick throw in on the near side. Gonzalez was fed a leading pass and blasted one on target from 30 yards out that dipped in over the outstretched hands of Ayres. On the play, Ayres appeared to back off — whether that was because he lost the ball in the sun or simply his inexperience playing in goal is unclear — and couldn't recover to stop the eventual game-winner.
“We dominated the whole game,” said Gonzalez, whose goals were his first two of the year. “We were playing hard, trying hard. That free kick last minute made it 2-0 and that was perfect. We want to show we have a team that can go to the finals.”
The Panthers' defense was strong all afternoon as DuVal didn't manage a shot on target. Its best opportunities were whistled offsides as Parkdale goalkeeper Angel Maza only handled the ball on a few occasions. Junior midfielder Daniel Rojas added a garbage-time goal in the 79th to round out the scoring.
“If you win a game like this, whether you dominate or it's 1-0, you enjoy it at that moment after the game. But as soon as that bus gets back to Parkdale, you've got to be thinking about your next opponent and be ready to go,” Abukar said. “They're looking forward to Tuesday.”
In the day's other first-round matchup in the top portion of the 4A South bracket, Northwestern beat Bladensburg, 2-0. The Wildcats are scheduled to face Laurel on Tuesday.
4A South Region
Parkdale 3, DuVal 0
Parkdale (6-4-1) 0 3 — 3
DuVal (3-8-1) 0 0 — 0
P — Laurel Gonzalez (42', 76'), Daniel Rojas (79')