By Nickolai Sukharev
POTOMAC — In a seven-goal encounter, the Churchill Bulldogs boys varsity soccer team defeated the Walter Johnson Wildcats, 5-2, Thursday evening to advance to the section quarterfinals.
Finishing second in the 4A West division, the Bulldogs gained control of the match, managing to score three goals in the first half while conceding two goals from the Wildcats, who placed seventh, within the same period. With both teams looking to add to the scoreboard during the second half, the Bulldogs expanded their lead by scoring two goals closer to the final whistle.
“As a team, we really played well; we came out on top of them right from the start,” said Churchill senior forward Aria Ahadpour. “We got our goals early and finished our chances.”
“I thought that they really came out and were prepared to work for the victory … and I thought that they moved it and shared the ball well,” added Churchill head coach Arnold Tarzy.
The Bulldogs began the match mounting repeated attacks in search of an early goal. Ahadpour found space down the right wing, but his low effort towards the far corner went past the post.
Minutes later, Ahadpour attempted to score from close range, but his shot deflected off the crossbar.
The Bulldogs’ effort paid off when they took the lead just nine minutes into the match, with junior winger Mateo Noguera scoring a header after finding himself at the near post.
Noguera’s goal began a flurry of goals from both teams that continued to the halftime whistle.
Controlling the momentum, the Bulldogs earned a penalty after Ahadpour was brought down inside the penalty box, prompting the referee to point to the spot without hesitation. Bulldogs senior midfielder Shawn Diboti stepped up and shot the ball past Walter Johnson goalkeeper Thomas Zinngrebe.
The Wildcats responded with a counterattack when Baasil Saleh dribbled through the Churchill midfield and scored with a long-range effort to bring the score to 2-1.
Just six minutes from the half, Ahadpour was on hand to convert the Bulldogs’ second penalty of the match after a foul in the box.
Two minutes later, the Wildcats reduced their deficit, when Kamyab Salehi-Pirouz scored with a long-range volley.
Following the halftime break, the momentum of the match dropped as both teams exchanged passes in the midfield.
Led by senior Jack Yoon, the Churchill midfield attempted to find space behind their opponents’ half, but the Wildcats’ backline remained focused and organized.
The Wildcats attempted to level the match but the front line led by Eddie Ruiz could not penetrate the Bulldogs defense.
With just under 20 minutes played in the first half, Ahadpour found space and scored from close range to expand his team’s lead.
Four minutes from the final whistle, he latched on to a pass to score once again and ensure his team’s victory.
“I am pleased with the way we played today. I don’t think it was a 5-2 match; we had to throw numbers forward late in the game to try and dig ourselves out of a hole and left ourselves vulnerable defensively,” said Walter Johnson coach Hector Morales.
“By the fourth goal it was a really close game, and we lost … but it was a fun season,” Salehi-Pirouz added.
The Bulldogs will play the Kennedy Cavaliers on Oct. 30.