By David Bashore
Herald sports reporter
Umatilla Sophomore striker Juan Colin scored a first half goal and assisted on another in the second half as Riverside claimed the 3A Special District 5 championship with a 2-0 win over Umatilla on Thursday.
The win sets up a home date for the Pirates at 3 p.m. Tuesday against Santiam Christian and sends the Vikings on the road to face Oregon Episcopal, both first round games of the 3A state playoffs.
It was a tense, free-flowing affair on a frigid, dreary afternoon for soccer, and both teams looked likely to score early and often.
Both clubs controlled the run of play in spots, but it was Colin who got the Pirates off the mark in the 30th minute when he wrong-footed the keeper and poked the ball home to send the visiting fans into a frenzy on the far side of the pitch.
Umatilla pressed their way back into the match toward the end of the first half and into the second, but it appeared the Vikings began to try a little too hard as the minutes waned off the clock.
They began to assert themselves over the course of the second half, but the Pirates looked dangerous on the counter-attack.
Colin squandered a pair of clear-cut chances to bag his second tally of the match and put the game to bed midway through the second half, but he could not connect on a header when picked out in the area by an inch-perfect cross, then missed a subsequent volley in a similar position.
Umatilla's marking took Colin's strike partner, freshman phenom Iovani Barrera, largely out of the game, but the striker managed to find other players with a series of deft passes in contributing through means other than on the scoresheet.
Gradually the Vikings began to exert more pressure on the Pirate defense as what once were aimless passes began to find more direction, and the offense which seemed out of ideas employed a newfound guile.
For all their efforts, however, the abundance of created chances went begging and one ball off the woodwork was the best Umatilla could muster.
That inability to finish in the attacking third came back to punish Umatilla in the waning moments, as Colin sprung Riverside on the counterattack.
In a savvy move, the sophomore lured the defenders and keeper toward him once entering the area, then laid a through-ball directly into the path of Juan Antonio Llamas, who swept home side-foot into an empty net in the 71st minute to put the game beyond doubt.
The full-time whistle blew shortly thereafter, setting off a series of celebrations for the Pirate faithful, including the ceremonial dumping of the water cooler upon coach Carlos Velasco.
"I'm so happy because they deserved to win today," Velasco said. "They fought for every ball and they played really well."
The Vikings, meanwhile, trudged off the field, rueing their missed opportunities after knowing a draw would have been enough to win the district title.
"Sometimes the best team doesn't win," Umatilla head coach Pedro Ortiz said of his side, which dominated the run of play for the majority of the second half and as such possibly deserved a better fate. "But if you can't finish your chances, you can't win."