With a number of seniors expected to play key roles, the time is now for the Aragon boys’ soccer team. With the Central Coast Section playoffs still tentatively on the schedule, the Dons have a chance at the playoffs for the first time since 2018.

But with no preseason schedule to speak of, all soccer coaches this year will have major question marks early in the season. The Dons, however, gave a glimpse of the possibilities with an impressive 2-0 win over Burlingame in San Mateo Wednesday afternoon.

“I thought we played really well,” said Aragon head coach Joe Rousseau. “We had enough chances to win it.”

The combination of senior attackers Ajay Paramasivan, Roman Misner and Zane Stokersberry, along with junior Alexis Villanueva, should give opposing defenses nightmares all season. That quartet took turns pressuring the Burlingame defense as the Dons outshot the Panthers 13-2.

And in the first half, Burlingame did not have an answer. Seemingly a step slow and playing together as a team for the first time, the Panthers were fortunate not to be trailing by more than one goal at halftime.

Burlingame soccer

Burlingame goalkeeper Jackson Kriner grabs a cross in front of Aragon’s Brenden Pineda.

If not for the play of Burlingame goalkeeper Jackson Kriner — who finished with six saves and several more key plays where he came off his goal line to win a challenge, including a fearless tackle 14 minutes into the match — the final score would have been a bit more lopsided.

“First game in a long time,” said Burlingame head coach Anthony Dimech. “We have a new group and, with club going at the same time, it’s been challenging.”

Stokersberry presented big problems to the Panthers’ defense — literally — as he was at least a head taller than most players on the field. His vision, coupled with his tenacity and strength, provided a dilemma for defenders. Not only did he provide quality service from his center forward spot, he was a freight train running at the Burlingame defense, especially in the second half.

Despite a strong showing, Stokersberry was kept off the scoreboard.

But the Dons showed they can attack in a variety of ways and, in the first half, that came with from their speed on the wings. Misner and Villanueva took turns on each flank in the opening 40 minutes, with the two combining for the game’s first goal in the 17th minute. Misner triggered the play when he received a pass in the center circle before laying it off to the right wing, where Villanueva streaked past his defender and carried the ball toward the end line.

Misner did not stop his run, however. Villaneuva made a cross to a wide-open Misner in the middle of the Burlingame penalty box and he calmly side-footed a shot into the right side of the net for a 1-0 Aragon lead.

The Dons controlled the midfield for most of the rest of the half, as the Panthers had a difficult time even getting the ball out of their defensive end. Despite their struggles, the Panthers managed to keep the Dons out of the net for the rest of the half and trailed just 1-0 at halftime.

Burlingame appeared to stabilize itself and had more possession in the midfield in the second half. They also shut down the Aragon attack on the flanks.

“We neutralized their attack a little better,”Dimech said. “We definitely played better (in the second half).”

With the wings closed down, the Dons took a more direct approach, with Stokersberry providing a lot of looks and chances at goal. But as the time ticked by and the score remained the same, that little voice started to creep into the mind of Rousseau.

“Soccer is unpredictable,” Rousseau said. “You can dominate the other team and then something flukey can happen.

“(But) I was confident the whole time.”

Both Rousseau and the rest of the Dons were finally able to breathe a sigh of relief as they finally found that second goal. Moments after latching onto a through ball only to see his shot go wide, Paramasivan used his speed to beat everyone to the ball and send a shot past Kriner for a 2-0 Dons’ lead with five minutes left to play.

“We didn’t settle (for the one goal),” Rousseau said.

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