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La Grande’s Ray Rodriguez scored the Tigers’ only goal Thursday. Rodriguez scored on a penalty kick after a hand ball by Ontario. CASEY KELLAS - The Observer
The La Grande boys soccer team looked like it was on its way to an upset of the No. 3 team in the state Thursday.
The host Tigers were in control and had visiting Ontario on the ropes, only to give up two second-half goals to fall 2-1.
“We firmly believe we can beat that team,” coach Wade Wright said.
“We just need to tighten it up. If we don’t mark up in the box, they’re going to score.”
La Grande caught an early break less than a minute into the game.
A hand ball by Ontario in the box gave La Grande a penalty kick.
Ray Rodriguez took advantage of the opportunity and pounded one into the back of the net to put LHS on top, 1-0.
The rest of the first half was played to a draw, with both teams coming close to scoring on a couple of occasions.
La Grande continued to stymie the Ontario offense in the second half.
But in the 23rd minute, Francisco Barrera shot from the right side of the field and slipped the ball inside the far post to tie the game.
“You could tell the momentum change after that,” Wright said.
“Until then we had frustrated them. But we deflated a bit after that.”
Five minutes later Ontario added another goal by Osvaldo Benitez to make it a 2-1 OHS lead.
La Grande scrambled over the final 10 minutes to try and tie the game, but Ontario was able to hold off the LHS offense and seal the win.
“We had opportunities. We had chances to change the outcome.
“But we have to learn how to win these close games. We have to play a full 80 minutes,” Wright said.
“You can tell by their faces that they expected to win this game.”
The loss drops La Grande to 3-5 overall and 2-3 in the Greater Oregon League.
Ontario improves to 9-1 and sits at 4-1 in the GOL.
La Grande will play host to Pendleton at 2 p.m. Saturday in a non-league contest.