Mount Tahoma was riding a wave of momentum heading into their key match against first-place winning, with a four-game winning streak putting them into the thick of playoff contention. But the Rams proved they were still the team to beat, using Oswald Ramos’ goal less than a minute after halftime to take a 1-0 win over the Thunderbirds on April 30.
“They definitely battled hard,” said Wilson interim head coach Dominick Cusato. “They’re a good team and they’ve been winning games lately. We just outworked them. We just wanted it more. It’s a testament to the boys.”
The Thunderbirds created most of the pressure early, getting the game’s first good look in the 15th minute when Cesar Ramirez’s shot deflected off the crossbar and was grabbed by Rams keeper Matvey Shitik in midair. Ian Karanja added another scoring chance nine minutes later, but his free kick from 20 yards out was deflected out by Shitik.
After not getting a good look at goal in the first half, Ramos caught the Thunderbirds off guard on a counterattack in the 41st minute, outracing the defense and sending a shot into the left netting from the right side.
“They were pinching really hard on one side,” Cusato said. “So I figured we would get the ball to the weak side…it’s (one versus one). We’ll win that battle all day long.”
Mount Tahoma’s Anthony Garibaldi had a couple of good looks at goal in the next 10 minutes but was unable to finish. Thunderbird forwards Brian Wambaa and Ian Karanja used their speed to create some pressure on the outside the remainder of the half, but were unable to create many serious threats.
“We had a lot of pressure, but I don’t think the pressure really translated into chances,” said Mount Tahoma head coach Scott Nelson. “I felt like (Wilson was) on their heels a lot of the time, but that final ball or final decision was a little lacking.”
The win gives the Rams seven league victories and a little bit of cushion for first place, as they look to sew up the league championship when they host Foss on May 2 at 7:15 p.m. at Stadium Bowl. The Thunderbirds, who remained tied for fourth place, will look to stay in playoff position as they faced a match at Timberline on May 2 at 7 p.m.
With five teams still jostling for four playoff spots, Nelson knows there is no more margin for error. “Any of these teams can finish first and any of them can finish fifth. Whichever team does finish fifth is going to be saying ‘woulda, shoulda, coulda.’”