With only a few games left in the season, the Pali Blues hadn’t yet had to come from behind to win a game.
But, Wednesday night at Palisades High School the Vancouver Whitecaps put Pali to the test and the Blues aced it, coming back from an early 1-0 deficit to win 2-1 and stretch their undefeated streak to 11 games.
“This team believes in itself and they’re confident,” said Pali head coach Charlie Naimo. “A lot of players are contributing now. We’re a deep team and I’m really happy with what I saw. “
Vancouver put Pali on their heels in just the 7th minute of the game, when Whitecaps’ forward Jenna Richardson broke free of Pali defender Whitney Engen and slotted the ball past Blues goalkeeper Anna Picarelli.
After back-to-back multi-game road trips and with several starters – including Liz Bogus, Christie Shaner, Nikki Washington, and Beth West – nursing injuries, the early goal had to make Naimo a bit nervous, right?
“I wasn’t worried about the goal as much as I was worried about the lack of energy that was in our game,” Naimo said. “It was too early to worry, there was still 80 minutes of soccer left. But, when you look at the bench with the injuries and the lack of energy, you wonder what’s going to happen today.”
What happened was Michelle Pao got even, scoring the equalizer in the 28th minute from inside the penalty box.
“I was more mad than anything and I was ready to go,” Pao said. “I said, ‘Let’s score, come on.’ I was able to get a lot of time on the ball and I just gave it a touch to the right and kept it on the ground.”
Danielle Hubka headed in a cross from Lynn Williams in the 35th minute for the go-ahead goal.
“Our goal created a lot of momentum for us and we kept pushing for a good 25 minutes, then they unfortunately got a bit of a break and a bit of a breakdown in our penalty box and slipped one in,” said Vancouver head coach Jesse Symons. “That gave them a lot of confidence and another goal, unfortunately. But, overall it was a good performance by our group. “
Vancouver had a few opportunities to tie the match, the best coming from Richardson, who had a game-high five shots.
“Obviously, Pali is a really good team and its always exciting to come out and play teams like this, where we can really test our skills,” Richardson said. “I think given the game and the travel, we did a really good job. The result wasn’t in our favor, but I was pleased with my team.”
Pali will now have some time to rest and heal before taking on the Colorado Rapids on July 6 at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Stadium at 6 p.m. ET.
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