Before the start of the season, Beamer boys soccer manager Joel Lindberg was surrounded by constant talk about how the Auburn Mountainview Lions were “a clear favorite” coming into the new season.
With new league schedules in place this year, they are not a team Beamer has played or seen in quite some time. The two sides finally met, however, on Monday in an 80-minute battle for second place in the North Puget Sound League’s Olympic division table.
All the early chatter about the Lions din’t phase the Titans as first half goals from Austin Stafford and Zak Gregg gave Beamer the 2-1 win over Auburn Mountainview at Federal Way Memorial Stadium.
The win not only gives Beamer (5-1-1, 16 points) sole possession of second place. With the win over Auburn Mountainview (4-1-4, 16 points), the Titans could be the new favorite in the North Puget Sound League.
“We’ve heard a lot about these guys,” Lindberg said. “It helps our confidence for sure. People have been talking, saying they’re the team to beat. We came out, played with confidence, and things came together for us.”
Early on, the Lions took full possession and spent the first 10 minutes in their attacking third. They fired off three shots on target, but Titan goalkeeper Brandon Locke easily saved them all.
Beamer captain Austin Stafford who woke his team’s attack in the 11th minute. Stafford collected a perfect inside tackle on Lions midfielder Eric Pena.
The surprise tackle on Pena allowed Stafford to make a 20-yard run before firing the Titans’ first shot on target at Lions goalkeeper Derian Ochoa. Stafford fired off two more inside the box before connecting for a goal in the 25th minute.
Beamer sophomore midfielder Zak Gregg came away with a tackle on Nicholas Wolfe and slotted a pass to fellow midfielder Malik Henry. Henry found Stafford pushing forward and made a perfect through-ball to Stafford’s right foot on the edge of the box, and Stafford put the ball under Ochoa’s left side and into the left bottom corner of the net for the 1-0 lead.
“You saw our confidence shift over the course of those early shots, the defense too,” Lindberg said. “The tackles leading to counter attacks just allowed us to do more.”
Stafford’s played more of a setup role over the last four games. While he has made two goals during this stretch, he also has six assists.
Lindberg said the most striking quality about his captain is his ability to put his teammates before himself.
While Lindberg enjoys watching Stafford make assists and create chances for his teammates, his goal brought a large, noticeable grin to his coach’s face on the sideline.
“It’s good. It’s good for him,” Lindberg said. “He does a lot of creating for his teammates, so it was nice for him to be able to put that one away.”
Stafford nearly netted a second goal in the 33rd minute after an unassisted run put him just inside the edge of the box. He got off a shot that deflected off of Ochoa’s shin and landed at the feet of Gregg, who collected the rebound and snuck the ball in underneath the Lions’ keeper for the goal and the 2-0 lead.
Auburn Mountainview answered a minute later, however. Aaron Tenner sent a shot in on target, and Locke wasn’t unable to haul in the rebound, which was collected by Lions forward Erik DeAnda and sent in for Auburn Mountainview’s lone goal.
Seven games in, and the Titans are finally getting comfortable as a team. They are far more familiar in their offense, which has produced results.
Despite the early noise about the Auburn sides, Beamer has quietly fielded a very talented group. After the win against the Lions, the talk, chatter and discussions may turn toward the Titans .
That’s the kind of noise Lindberg and Beamer soccer would gladly listen to.
“Yeah, I think we made it an even playing field with this one,” Lindberg said. “I don’t know that it makes us any different now than we were prior to this game. It’s a good win to add three points. We’ll try to win three more every time out.”