Thursday, Mar. 14
Ryan Morris has gotten the short end of longevity.
A senior, he's the only current Liberty player who has stuck with the Eagles boys soccer team since 2011.
During his tenure, however, the Eagles have lost 24 games. And they've won none.
Even before he arrived on the varsity squad, they struggled to a 3-10-2 record in 2010.
Liberty's latest loss came Thursday to Park View, 1-0, at home in Bealeton during both team's season-opening game. It extended the Eagles' win-less streak to 35 games.
They went 0-10-1 last season, 0-13 in 2011 and ended the 2010 season on a 0-9-2 streak. So 2013 began as a pessimist's playground. Morris remains overtly optimistic though.
“Normally it tears a team apart,” Morris said of the win-less steak, “But we use it as motivation to just do better. … We're a new team. The players we had then [in 2010] had completely different attitudes than the players we have now. We have a lot better leadership now and we're not as lazy.”
Regardless, the Eagles haven't won since beating Eastern View, 3-2, on April 7, 2010. They failed to qualify for the Evergreen District tournament each of the past two seasons and have never qualified for a region tournament, including the current Region II tournament.
“We feel like we have just as good a shot as everybody else in the district. Don't sleep on us,” Morris said. “We would love to have a winning record, and we'd love to be the first team in Liberty history to make the region tournament.”
Despite losing Thursday to Park View, the Eagles saw some promise in their performance. They played the Patriots to a scoreless tie in the first half and matched most of Park View’s scoring opportunities in those 40 minutes.
"Much better than last season,” Morris said of the Eagles’ play.
Nevertheless, the Patriots dominated possession in the second half and scored the game-winner with 23 minutes, 26 seconds remaining in the game on a goal by Abodoulaye Sow. Joel Rivera crossed a ball from the far right side of the field and Sow headed it past Liberty goalkeeper Chris Higgins.
"We were trying to work the outsides,” Park View coach Arturo Jimenez said. “We were trying to push their two backs out a little bit, then take the cross and go in.”
That breakdown aside, the Liberty defense played well despite an offense that could barely maintain possession in the second half.
"Defense did an amazing job,” Eagles coach Greg McLeod said. “We stack the defense – put extra numbers back. We try to keep the score low and see what happens. … But you can only be on your heels so long.”
The Liberty offense didn’t muster a shot attempt the entire second half, putting tremendous pressure on its defense.
“Our midfield should be distributing and we were dribbling,” Morris said. “We just lost possession too much.”
Park View, meanwhile, finished the game with 15 shots. Ten of those shots were on goal and Higgins saved eight of them.
“Their keeper did a great job of keeping control of his defense and of his goal,” Jimenez said.
Liberty created five shots in the first half, but Patriots’ keeper Sam Onyeandor made a trio of solid saves to keep the Eagles off the scoreboard.
"I knew this was a quality team and we wouldn't get a lot of quality opportunities,” McLeod said. “If we were going to pull the upset we had to score when … we had a couple really good chances in the first half.”
The loss of sophomore midfielder Kevin Garcia didn’t help Liberty’s offense. He left the game with 3:44 remaining in the first half due to a calf contusion and did not return. As a result, Morris had to move from forward to midfield.
“That really limited what we could do offensively,” McLeod said of the changes. “We just didn't generate the pressure on goal the second half.”
/ On Twitter @jeffmalmgren.