Mills earns tie with Aragon on late goal

Nathan Mollat / Daily Journal Aragon's No. Dilian Donev, left, beats Mills' Kevin Ling during a 1-1 tie in the Ocean Division opener for both teams.

Given the suspension of athletics in the county, the Daily Journal decided to dive into our 20-year archives to bring readers some of our favorite stories over the years.

JAN. 10, 2008 — Everyone wants to win.

But the Aragon and Mills boys' soccer teams are dying for a victory. The squads entered Wednesday's Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division opener with a combined 0-13-2 record. It's no secret that both teams have struggled mightily this season.

Needless to say, the Dons and Vikings were looking for a breakthrough win. Both will have to wait a little longer, as the teams ended in a 1-1 tie. The result had to be more heartbreaking for the Dons (0-0-1 PAL Ocean, 0-5-2 overall), who dominated the possession and outshot Mills (0-0-1, 0-8-2) 20-5. However, after establishing an early lead, Aragon couldn't put the Vikings away despite having several great scoring chances.

Mills kept on working hard and was rewarded for its determination with a goal with five minutes remaining. It all started when Chris Urbanski kept a ball alive as the Dons were trying to clear it past midfield. Moments later, the ball was sent over the top to a streaking John Kim down the left side.

Kim was able to flick the ball over incoming Aragon goalkeeper Carlos Lopez, and the ball bounced slowly towards the Aragon net before Chris Tapia finished things off and scored uncontested. Tapia was one of two Mills players rushing towards the ball, as the Dons were caught completely off guard by the sequence of events.

"Unfortunately it's too early to say whether we're improving," Mills coach Tim Keller said. "But you look at the guys now and they're talking a lot more now after the game than any other game this season. A result like this definitely gives the team (a confidence boost and helps morale)."

Conversely, the Dons were deflated. They went up 1-0 in the 20th minute on a goal from Alex Miller, who was inside the box when he pounced on a loose ball before drilling a shot off a Mills defender and into the lower right corner, barely eluding the outstretched arms of Vikings goalkeeper Brian Im. It was the only shot that got past Im all game.

Im made a number of spectacular saves, including three from point-blank range.

In the first 20 minutes, he was involved in three separate collisions with Aragon players. Im displayed excellent range, was perfectly positioned to make saves and was aggressive in cutting off shooting angles. He also showed tremendous athleticism with a number of diving saves, single-handedly preventing Aragon from pulling away.

"I can't say he does that every game, but he had a great game today," Keller said.

Aragon coach Forest Brazil wasn't so much demoralized about his team allowing a late goal as opposed to a lack of urgency once the Dons got the lead.

"It's naive with a 1-0 lead to play like you're up 4-0," he said. "We didn't keep our intensity like it was 0-0. As time went on I got a sense of nervousness (that things might turn out the way it did). It's a tough lesson to learn because mentally we were a detriment to ourselves. It seemed like we were just trying to kill time. I hope it doesn't come back to bite us."

Mills nearly got on the board in the seventh minute, as Wesley Kwan had a great look at a header, which went wide right. The Dons' Eric Knowles, Brian Herz, Edgardo Becera and Dilian Donev created a number of solid scoring chances and attacked the Mills goal throughout. Brazil expects his team to compete for the division title but knows there must be an attitude shift.

"We can't be complacent and expect to win," he said. "That comes with being immature. This is nothing new. All kinds of coaches go through this and see their team dominate the possession yet when it comes to the box score, it doesn't add up. I told the kids this left a sour taste in my mouth. I'm not going to make them feel better. Maybe they need this stinging feeling so if this same situation comes up again, they'll remember this and won't let it happen again. This isn't going to be an easy sleep tonight."

Keller said the season has been a challenge but it's also been rewarding. A tie might as well be a win. Mills is extremely young, starting six sophomores, almost unheard of at the high school soccer varsity level. But with players like Im, Urbanski, Tapia and Andrew Rechsteiner, who was responsible for the bulk of the Vikings' attacks, there are pieces in place for them to compete regularly in the Ocean Division, with the exception being South San Francisco, which just might be the best team in the PAL.

"We've been blown out quite a bit in the preseason playing some top teams," Keller said. "We're not playing well at that level. I'm hoping we improve in this division. Aragon takes the field with a purpose and we weren't ready for that. I made a couple of adjustments and we were able to get things going."

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