Chugiak's Brad Fussner (15) and Eagle River's Patrick Prior go after a loose ball during Chugiak's 2-1 Cook Inlet Conference win at The Dome on April 2. The win lifted the Mustangs to 2-2 on the season, while Eagle River fell to 0-4.
STAR PHOTOs by matt tunseth
You would have been hard pressed to tell who won the first Chugiak-Eagle River boys soccer clash of the season based on post match interviews.
"I don't think one player should be happy with the way we played," said Chugiak's Keaton Rasic.
And he scored the game-winner.
The Mustangs improved to .500 on the season with an uneven 2-1 win on April 2 at The Dome in Anchorage, hanging on despite a late Wolves charge that had Eagle River coach Luke Almon brimming with optimism.
"We've got to be mentally present for 80 minutes and not check out when it looks tough for us, and so I'm really proud of their poise today," Almon said.
Chugiak looked very strong in the early going, forcing Wolves goalie D.J. Ramey to venture far and wide in his efforts to keep a clean sheet. Chugiak finally broke through in the 31st minute when MacKenzie Harris picked up a loose ball at the top of the box and beat Ramey, who ventured far off his line and was caught in no-man's land when Harris reached the ball first.
Ramey was perfect for the rest of the half, finishing the first with a flourish when he made a huge stop on Sebastian Ruesch, who looked skyward in frustration after Ramey turned back his right-footed blast.
"He made some key saves today where the score could have looked a lot worse," Almon said.
Rasic one of the tallest players on the field gave Chugiak some breathing room in the 47th minute when he found space in between a trio of Eagle River defenders and got his head on a feed from Nathan Macalino, flicking the ball into the net before Ramey could react.
"It just happens to be I'm a little bit taller than everyone and I put it in," Rasic said.
As it turned out, Rasic's goal was more than just padding for Chugiak's lead. In the 70th minute, Eagle River's Josh Robles found the back of the net to make the final 10 minutes much more tense than Chugiak coach George Campnell would have liked.
"We let Eagle River back into it," he said.
Rasic explained that Chugiak has yet to play to its full potential, and said the team may be dealing with overconfidence issues.
"We're coming into games all hot headed," he said.
Rasic also noted that the team's fitness isn't where it should be, but promised that the Mustangs will be spending plenty of time conditioning in the coming weeks.
"We've been running every practice," he said. "Eventually we'll get there."
"Playing to our potential is what we're after, and I just don't think we're doing that yet," he said.
As for Eagle River, Almon said he thinks the team is on the verge of turning a corner. With three starters set to return to the lineup after missing time for a school trip, he thinks the Wolves are about to get a lot more dangerous.
"The complexion of our team is about to change in a big way," he said.
Contact Matt Tunseth at firstname.lastname@example.org or 694-2727.
MUSTANGS 2, WOLVES 1
Chugiak 1 1 2
Eagle River 0 1 1
Chu Harris (31st), Rasic (47th)
ER Robles (70th)
This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, April 6, 2011.