HERMISTON — The Bulldogs came out with all cylinders firing, scoring the first of their three goals only six minutes into their league opener.
En route to the 3-1 victory over The Dalles, Hermiston took its foot off the gas mid-game but recovered in the second half to earn back the lead and the win.
“I definitely wanted a win to open up conference play,” head coach Rich Harshberger said. “But I’m not satisfied with our first half performance. We need to come out stronger and impose ourselves a little bit more.”
After senior forward Joel Mendez sailed past The Dalles’ goalie Jaime Castro to a wide-open net for Hermiston’s first score, the game settled down. The Riverhawks (3-3, 0-1 CRC) pushed the pace of play and were aggressive in Hermiston’s back third. Despite some good saves by junior goalkeeper Juan Navarrette, The Dalles finally put one past him in the final minutes of the first half.
After the break, with the score knotted at 1-1, the Bulldogs (6-3, 1-0 CRC) continued to let the Riverhawks dictate the pace. But it would soon catch up with them.
“Unfortunately for (the Riverhawks), they were a little tired — had some tired legs in the second half,” Harshberger said. “So they were dropping off and just trying to maintain the tie there and that gave us all the space we needed to attack.”
Hermiston bounced back mentally, which according to Harshberger was the missing piece to the first half’s puzzle.
“We played our game a little bit better there in the second half,” he continued. “That was definitely important — being able to change our mentality from that first half, because it was just purely mental and that can be the toughest thing to change. Tactically we can switch some stuff up and that’s easy but getting them to change their mentality can be really tough.”
Hermiston got back into the game and took back the lead in the 60th minute. Senior midfielder Noe Silva weaved his way through multiple defenders and crossed his shot to the opposite corner of the goal, past Castro to push the score to 2-1.
The Bulldogs didn’t stop there, and added an insurance goal with two minutes left. It was Mendez’s second goal of the night.
“I knew they were going to be tough, you can’t underestimate The Dalles. They’ve got soccer players, and that’s pretty clear,” Harshberger said. “I knew it was a winnable game but I knew we just couldn’t walk out on the field and they would roll over and give it to us.”
Up next for the Bulldogs are three consecutive road games. First up is Hood River Valley on Tuesday.
Contact Alexis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4542. Follow her on Twitter @almansanarez