It could be easy to lose perspective after the Nevada Wonders let this one slip from their grasp.
Yes, the Wonders were two minutes away from their biggest win in their short two-year history. But it was still the Wonders best performance in their short history. After the Wonders appeared to have scored the game-winning goal with two minutes left in regulation, they gave up the game-tying goal at the 90th minute of regulation against the Fresno Fuego.
The two teams then play two scoreless, 10-minute overtimes and the Wonders had to settle for a 3-3 tie against the Fuego, one of the Premiere Development League's powerhouses.
Wonders coach Paul Aigbogun was able to keep perspective after the game. "We're encouraged, but you know it's a little discouraging," Aigbogun said.
Still after last weekend in which the Wonders were beaten easily by two of the better PDL teams in the Orange County Blue Stars and the Southern California Seahorses, the Wonders' effort against the Fuego could be a performance that helps the program turn the corner. "Overall it was good improvement after last weekend," Aigbogun said.
With two minutes left in regulation, Stanton Smith centered a ball from the right side and Nene Coulibaly, who had just came into the game a few minutes earlier, was there to put the ball into the net that gave the Wonders a 3-2 lead. But Fresno came right back to score the game-tying goal and then the teams battled to a standstill during injury time.
In overtime, Smith had an excellent chance to give the Wonders the game-winner on a one-on-one chance with the goalie, but Fresno's goalie made an excellent save. The Wonders' goalie, Mark Muleady, who had about 10 saves, also made an excellent save in overtime. "In overtime it could have gone either way," Aigbogun said.
In the first half, the Wonders again used a strategy that they have used at times this year when they had five defenders and just one forward in Anthony Grillo. Aigbogun and midfielder Chris Blackburn dropped back on defense. "It was just the way we planned to play," Aigbogun said.
The strategy almost paid off when Rafa Leora sent a ball forward to the right side to Gavin Duffy, who centered the ball to Grillo, who had a one-on-one situation with the goalie. But Grillo shot the ball right at the goalie.
Grillo made up for his mistake moments later when he beat two defenders on the right side and sent a shot from a difficult angle into the upper part of the net to give the Wonders (2-5-1) a 1-0 lead. Grillo almost had another goal, but was denied on a diving save by Fresno's goalie.
Fresno took a 2-1 lead at halftime, with one of the goals coming on a defensive mistake. The Wonders then went to more of an attacking style in the second half. "It was our plan in the second half to go all out and attack more," Aigbogun said.
Aigbogun came out in favor of Sam Sneed and the move paid off. Leora sent a ball forward to Sneed, who beat the goalie and put the ball in the open net to tie the score 2-2. Others who took shots for the Wonders included David Martin, Blackburn, Leora and Landon Roser.
Wonders Notes: As expected, the Wonders appear to have lost top defender Renato Pereira of Brazil, who has won a tryout with a Swedish team. "Which is what we're trying to do with some of these guys," Aigbogun said.
Contact Charles Whisnand at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1214.