Boys soccer season ends on controversial goal

Jillian Ward

More stories from Jillian Ward

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Photo courtesy of Sanir Byanjankar

Senior captain Alejandro Linares shares a very emotional moment with teammate and long-time friend junior Thomas Poliseno. “Thomas assisting my final WJ career goal was surreal. I’ve loved sharing the field with him,” Linares said.

The stage was set for an absolute showdown. On Tuesday, Nov. 3, the Walter Johnson Wildcats fell 3-2 to the Bethesda Chevy-Chase Barons. This regional final matchup went into golden goal overtime. With a controversial call back of what would have been a WJ game-winner, BCC went on attack and ended the game. This goal, securing the regional title for BCC, was also quite controversial.

Their only other matchup against BCC during their season was split into two days due to weather conditions. Both teams went scoreless in the first half, with the winning goal coming from junior forward Bardia Hormozi with 44 seconds left in the second half. The game was an absolute dog fight, being no different this time around.

Immediately after the whistle blew to trigger the start of Tuesday’s match, both teams were showcasing their aggressive nature. WJ had a plethora of chances throughout the first half, all without being able to capitalize. The momentum was truly theirs going into the second half. The crowd was roaring, ready to motivate their boys to a victory.

The momentum shifted towards BCC following a goal from junior forward Amanuel Dejena. WJ was not fazed. They were ready to set back out onto the field for a counterattack. Head coach Hector Morales had been rarely subbing throughout the game, only using a small portion of the WJ bench to give his starters a rest. Senior captain Alejandro Linares was being put in and out throughout the entire match. After receiving a yellow card, Linares thought his night was over.

“Hector told me before the game that I can’t get a yellow and I need to keep my composure. I really thought I was going to sit. But, when the score was 1-0 he came over to me and gave me a stern but motivating pep talk. I told him to trust me to get it done,” Linares said.

Within 40 seconds of Linares subbing back in during the second half, there it was. An insane strike into the side netting. A through ball was sent from Hormozi to Linares. Weaving in front of BCC senior defender Nick Ulrich and conquering a challenge from BCC senior goalie Nate Van Zoren, Linares was able to track down this ball and place it into the net beyond another BCC senior defender Alex Spiegel.

The fans were sent into an uproar. A typical WJ celebration of players running over towards the fans was carried out as Linares hopped up into the stands. The game was now tied.

With 13 minutes left in the game, BCC was given a prime opportunity to get ahead. The corner kick was sent into the box. Finding BCC senior midfielder Allen Ashe wide open in the 6, he was able to put the ball past senior captain and goalkeeper Leo Dobosz. The score was now 2-1. The crowd was silenced.

BCC began using the tactic of stalling to limit the time that WJ could have to tie it up. The refs began to notice this, and they would occasionally stop the clock when they would see BCC delaying the game.

In the remaining 4 minutes of the game, WJ had an insane amount of momentum. Linares, craving a touch on the ball, went out of position to receive the ball from senior defender Will Dash. Linares turned, making eye contact with Hormozi and played him the ball. Hormozi then turned and slipped the ball in between the BCC defense to junior left winger Thomas Poliseno. Back heeling it into Linares’ run, Poliseno was able to place the ball in a perfect spot for Linares to hit an absolute rocket into the side netting yet again. The score was now 2-2, and WJ proved once again that they were not going down without a fight.

As time ran out, the crowd sent WJ off with an insane amount of cheering, hoping to boost their momentum even more heading into the 10 minute overtime period. Soon after the beginning of the overtime period, WJ looked to have a promising chance at a score. Dash, with the strength to perform throw-ins as powerful as corner kicks, placed the ball perfectly into the box with his throw. The ball went into the goal. Everyone stopped. The celebration began as a domino effect following the ref signaling this play as a goal. WJ’s entire team ran towards the stands and the fans were going crazy. WJ had won the regional finals, their anticipated long road to states had continued. Until, the play was called back. The refs claimed that nobody within the box had touched the goal, thus the ball would have just gone in directly from the throw-in, which is not allowed.

Angered by the reversal of the call, WJ players approached the refs arguing about what had just happened. It was believed that senior forward Fernando Ibarra had come in contact with the ball from Dash’s throw-in. The refs dismissed this and play went on.

BCC bounced back from what they thought was their downfall with a controversial play of their own. Junior midfielder Jacques Mande was able to place the ball directly in front of Dobosz. Senior forward Alex Greenstein received this pass and was able to finish. Dobosz lifted his arm up, signaling to the ref for an offsides call. The call was not made. Again, WJ had stopped in their tracks. This time, with no celebration to follow.

Running to celebrate the regional final win with their fans, BCC turned to the WJ crowd, motioning to them that they could no longer hear the constant screams that were belted throughout the match up. The entirety of the WJ boys soccer team remained on the field, completely overtaken by emotions and shock. What was predicted to be a true states run had ended. Tears were shed, hands were shook and congratulations were now in order for BCC.

The last image of the WJ’s team together was a huddle of all of the players, arms around one another, they shared a very special moment together. The seniors were recognized. Morales gave his final speech as the WJ boys soccer head coach. They cheered one last time. The team had closed out the season with a 13-2 record. An incredible season, full of talented players, heated matchups and tons of emotions. Their routine post-game thank you to the fans was in order. Junior midfielder Martin Forero took this time to institute hope and positivity to both his teammates and his fans.

“We’ll be back. Next year we’ll be back. Just you wait,” Forero said.

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