Team Ohio F.C. under-16 boys soccer coach Harold Horton wasn't surprised that his team's offense was a bit off in its first game of the 2008 Midwest Regional Cup, which was held last Saturday through last Wednesday at Sportscore Soccer Complex in Rockford, Ill.
Two of Team Ohio's forwards -- Aaron Horton (bruised left leg) and Herman Paniagua (bruised left thigh) -- were playing injured and the other -- Taylor Rieger (broken ankle) -- was out.
Despite generating several quality scoring opportunities in its opener last Saturday, Team Ohio lost to Vardar from Michigan 1-0.
Even though Team Ohio regained its scoring touch in the next game, that loss cost it the opportunity to advance to a semifinal as it finished third (1-1-1, 4 points) in its four-team pool behind Vardar (2-1, 6) and the Kansas City Wizards (1-0-2, 5), and ahead of Iowa Soccer Club (0-2-1, 1).
"This is frustrating because we had several opportunities to put that game away, but we couldn't finish," Harold Horton said. "Our best finishers were hobbling around out there, and they were partially immobilized by their injuries. We had to limit their playing time to try to keep them healthy, and we had Aaron playing more in the midfield so that he didn't have to run as much as usual. If we had everyone at full strength, I believe we would have scored at least one goal if not more. We should have scored at least one goal with all of the opportunities that we had.
"Our defense was spectacular, like it's been all year. It was raining and the field was slippery, and one of our guys slipped out there, which freed up one of their players to score their only goal."
Team Ohio bounced back to beat Iowa Soccer Club 2-0 last Sunday. Horton put his team ahead 1-0 early in the second half after he beat two defenders and put a shot past the goalkeeper.
Three minutes later, Paniagua scored off of a free kick from 20 yards away.
"It seemed like when Aaron scored that first goal for us, it opened up the floodgates and we dominated the rest of the game," coach Horton said. "I just wish we could have got things going earlier than that."
Last Monday, Team Ohio tied the Kansas City Wizards at 1. With two minutes remaining, Horton scored off a pass from Jeff Addis to put Team Ohio ahead 1-0.
"Jeff took the ball up the field and beat two defenders to get the ball to Aaron," coach Horton said. "It was a beautiful goal, really."
But Team Ohio gave up the tying goal with less than a minute left.
"Vardar was playing on the field next to us, and they scored to beat Iowa (Soccer Club 2-1) right after we scored," coach Horton said. "That took the wind out of our sails because we knew we weren't going to advance even if we won since Vardar would win the head-to-head tiebreaker. We fell apart after that."