IRVINE — It was just that last finishing touch that was missing from the Newport Harbor High boys' soccer team in its second match of the Irvine Tournament at Hicks Canyon Park Friday night.
Knowing that, Newport Harbor's Henry Ramirez did all he could to squeak in a goal when he saw an opening in Santiago's defense late in the game. Unfortunately, the near-miss theme continued to plague the Sailors, as the midfielder's header rolled just to the side of the goal and out of play. Five minutes later, the whistle ended the game as a scoreless draw.
"Their keeper pushed up and I saw an opening so I just had to give it the best shot that I could," Ramirez said.
In need of a goal of its own, Santiago keeper Dylan Robets pushed his team way up when it worked the ball deep into Newport Harbor's end. The Sailors' defense quickly put the Sharks (1-0-1) on their heels when it cleared the ball out to Daniel Segerblom at midfield. He boomed the ball into the air with three Santiago defenders, including Robets, jumping up for the ball near the top of their box.
Ramirez leaped in between all three and got just enough of his head on the ball to roll it toward the goal and out of reach of any player. All anyone could do was watch with both sidelines letting out deep sighs – one of disappointment for the Sailors (3-1-1) and one of relief for the Sharks – as it went just to the left of the goal.
"We dominated them in shots attempts 16 to five, and we nearly had one there at the end," Newport Harbor Coach Juan Mares said. "We just have to come back tomorrow, see who we play and go from there."
Newport Harbor's offense had little trouble in its tournament opener against Dana Hills, as Jonny Arroyo got the Sailors on the board with an eighth-minute goal. Newport kept on the attack, adding two more goals from True Tamplin and David Muñoz before Dana Hills added its one and only late in the game with the Sailors cruising to a 3-1 victory.
Ramirez also nearly scored late in the first half against the Sharks when he cracked a shot from the top and middle of Santiago's box, but Robets made one of his four impressive diving saves of the game to keep the contest scoreless.
The Sailors kept on the attack eight minutes into the second half, as Newport Harbor's Brandon Varela controlled a failed clearing attempt from Robets on the right side of Santiago's box before chipping a shot that just bounced off the top cross bar. The rebound went straight to Newport Harbor's Manolo Laguna, who rocketed a shot across the face of the goal to the bottom left corner of the net that just went out of play.
While Newport Harbor's offense just didn't have enough, it got a boost from its defense. Thanks to outstanding play from Sailor defenders like Cesar Calderon and David Ayala the Sharks didn't have a single shot on goal.
"It's disappointing, but we still played well winning that first game," Ramirez said. "We just weren't able to finish tonight."