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Two late strikes carry Roseville over Del Oro

Tiger keeper Pulver comes up huge in Loomis
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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After some sensational play by its goalkeeper kept the Roseville High soccer team around long enough to make a run at victory, coach Pablo Gutierrez went back to a strategic shift that served him well in prior games as the Tigers knocked off Del Oro 2-1 Tuesday in Loomis. “It was a great win,” Gutierrez said. “It was a pretty even match. They had their chances. We had our chances.” The game was scoreless throughout the first half, largely due to the acrobatic heroics of Roseville goalie Joshua Pulver. Three or four times before intermission, Pulver stared down certain Del Oro scoring opportunities and made all of the plays. The most impressive came in the 37th minute, when the Golden Eagles’ outstanding striker, Kolby Mitnick turned the corner on a fallen Roseville defender with a look at the goal from about 10 yards away. Playing aggressively, Pulver came at Mitnick hard and managed to get his body between the frame and a powerful shot. The Tigers cleared the resulting rebound and escaped with the 0-0 score still intact. It was the not first time in the initial stanza that Gutierrez’ heard was in his throat as he watched Mitnick, Casey Meuser and teammates make run after run deep into his defensive third. For the most part, sweeper Giovanni Reader and his defensive mates managed to recover and sweep the area clean, but when they fall short, Pulver was on the spot. For the Tigers, midfielder Alex Both and forward Tanner Roland were always dangerous taking the ball back the other way, but Grant Benedict, Andrew Messamore and the Golden Eagle defense had the answers as well. The match was a fast and furious end-to-end race, as both teams seemed to find comfort on the somewhat undersized Del Oro field. Del Oro finally solved Pulver three minutes after the break, when Kellen Crow delivered a solid through-ball to Mitnick, who finally found a way to get the shot past the Roseville net-minder. “Joel Acuna was doing an outstanding job marking Del Oro's playmaker (Meuser),” Gutierrez said. “Joel was injured in the first five minutes of the second half. That created a little problem for our midfield. That's when they scored.” Down 1-0, Gutierrez made the change that changed the flow of the game. Risking trouble in the back, he moved Reader from the last defender to the forward line, hoping that teaming him with the electric Roland would allow his team to equalize the contest. The personnel change changed the nature of Roseville’s attacking runs and got the Golden Eagles back on their heels somewhat. “The change of Giovanni from sweeper to forward really helped,” Gutierrez said. “He is a very talented player.” While that duo put the pressure on up top, it was from a somewhat unexpected source that the Tigers got the scoring strike that evened the match in the 63rd minute. Martin Ruelas, a reserve midfielder, received an attempted Del Oro clearance about 35 yards out from the goal, right in the middle of the pitch. Finding himself alone, the strong-legged senior unleashed a rocket that arrived at the goal in perfect position between the crossbar and the outstretched hand of Del Oro keeper Alec Lyons. As the ball struck the net, the Tigers found themselves tied and looking for a big win as they seek to stay in the Sierra Foothill League playoff chase. The action continued to switch back and forth as both teams created chances, with Mitnick and Meuser continuing to push forward to counter the attack generated by Roseville’s Roland and Reader. The size, strength and skill of Roland are always a difficult matchup, and that was true on this day as well. The eventual game-winner came as a result of the senior striker’s ability to create intense pressure on the Golden Eagle defense. In the 70th minute, Roland worked the ball free and headed across the field, looking for an opportunity to let fly with a big shot. In an attempt to bump him off his path, Del Oro fouled Roland just outside the penalty area. The Tiger captain delivered a powerful strike that cleared the Del Oro wall and barely eluded the grasp of Lyons on its way to the corner of the net. “The goals we scored were unusual,” Gutierrez said. “Great goals. I think my team feels really comfortable in that size of a field. It is the best field to play soccer on. It is natural grass and is smooth.” With the one-goal lead, Gutierrez sent Reader back to his customary sweeper spot, and with help from another sensation save by Pulver in the game’s final moments, watched his team get out of town with a well-earned victory to close out the first half of the league season. “My team played really well,” Gutierrez said. “I hope they continue experiencing success. We are hoping to make a run for the playoffs. It is going to be a battle until the end.” The win pulls Roseville (3-2-1 in the SFL) into a tie with the Golden Eagles (3-2-1) in third place with six games to go. With just three teams slated to make the postseason tournament, that third-place spot is critical. Granite Bay seems secure at 6-0, but the Tigers and Del Oro are hot in pursuit of 4-2 Rocklin, with 2-3-1 Oakmont also in the mix. Roseville opens the second half of the league season Thursday with a trip to Nevada Union (1-4-1), a team it tied in its league opener. Del Oro is at front-running Granite Bay at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.