Wonders are Sharp in victory
Appeal Sports Writer
Goalkeeper Travis Sharp all too well remembers his first United Soccer Leagues appearance for the Nevada Wonders – a 4-1 loss to the Yakima Reds in Yakima, Wash., on May 20. Friday night was payback time, as Sharp and the Wonders returned home and defeated the Reds in a Premier Development League inter-division match at Carson High School.
Ben Callon scored a first-half goal, then Jordan Keyes added a vital insurance score in the second half to make it 2-0 at a time when the Wonders were playing short one player due to a red card. And Sharp came up with two big saves in the final nine minutes as the Wonders (4-8 Southwest Division, 5-9 overall) slammed the door shut.
“They beat us up there 4-1 in my first game, so it feels good to get some revenge on those guys,” said Sharp, who is headed into his junior year at the University of San Francisco. “It just feels good to come home get a victory.”
The Reds from Yakima, Wash., (4-6-2 Northwest Division, 5-7-2 overall) have now lost five straight, but four of those have been decided by one goal. They held a 17-12 advantage on the shot chart Friday night and kept constant pressure on the defense after Wonders player/coach Paul Aigbogun was issued a red card in the final four minutes before halftime.
Aigbogun was able to make light of the call afterward.
“That’s the second one I’ve had in my career. It must be the official’s fault,” he said, flashing a grin.
All kidding aside, Aigbogun was pleased with the team’s effort. Especially against a Yakima offense that tried to spread the field in the second half. And especially on a night when the Wonders only had two reserves available on the bench.
“We played very well,” he said. “With 10 men, we didn’t want to get spread out, but they stayed organized and compact. This was a good win, but at home, we’re pretty strong.”
Fitness appeared to pay off for the Wonders, who had been shutout three times in their previous four games.
“I think our fitness helps out,” Sharp said. “I think that showed in the second half. Even though they had the extra man, they weren’t able to keep up with us. We’re used to the altitude and they weren’t.”
Callon, an NAIA All-American at Rio Grande College in Ohio via Blackburn, England, broke up a scoreless battle in the 36th minute after a takeaway from Yakima’s Santa Maria Rivera near midfield. Callon took the ball to the right side and then buried a 25-yard drive into the upper left corner of the net for a 1-0 lead.
Defense also led to the second Wonders goal when Anthony Grillo got a takeaway and passed the ball to Keyes over the middle. Keyes hit one shot that caromed off the chest of Yakima goalkeeper Robert McCurdy, then gathered the ball back in for a second shot, a low liner that found the back of the net.
Sharp was certainly glad to see his USF teammate provide some insurance.
“That was a big goal by Jordan,” Sharp said. “When it’s only 1-0, you’re always under a lot of pressure because it just takes one break, one crack, and all of a sudden you’re tied up again.”
The Reds were far from finished, though.
First, Sharp left his feet to deflect a high shot away from the net in the 84th minute. The Reds finally got on the scoreboard four minutes later when Mike Babenco sent a long ball downfield that Rivera collected in front of the net and pushed past Sharp for the goal. Yakima had one more opportunity in the three minutes of added time when veteran defender Mark Cox put down a header in front of the net, a shot Sharp which Sharp went to his knees to deflect.
“That was a pure reaction play,” said Sharp, who finished with six saves. “The ball was put in there really nice; I knew it was going to be a tough play.”
The Wonders play host to the Northwest Division-leading Cascade Surge (Salem, Ore.) tonight at 7 p.m. on the Carson High field. The Wonders conclude their season with three games against Southwest Division opponents, including a test at home next Saturday night at 7 p.m. against the Bakersfield Brigade.