Palmetto boys soccer loses first game, but gains invaluable experience

Tigers fall 3-1 to three-time defending national champs

jdill@bradenton.comNovember 19, 2013 

PALMETTO -- For a November soccer game, the atmosphere felt a bit different.

It sounded and looked a little like a postseason game in January.

That's what playing the three-time defending national champions will do.

But revving up the crowd isn't the only benefit for the Palmetto boys soccer team. The early season showdown with powerhouse Montverde Academy provided Tigers head coach Dustin Dahlquist the chance to see his club's talent matched with the best in the country.

And on Monday at Harllee Stadium, his team held their own despite falling 3-1 in a match where the Tigers were down a man after senior Usiel Martinez was sent off for picking up his second yellow card late in the first half.

"They haven't been beaten in three or four years," Dahlquist said. "Commendable effort, you can't say enough about our kids. They fought through adversity and made some great covers.

Despite losing the match, there were moral victories for Palmetto (4-1-0). Namely, the defensive stand the Tigers employed to hold the Eagles (8-0-0) to just one goal during the roughly 50 minutes they were at a one-man disadvantage.

Palmetto also had some spells where it held possession and could match Montverde with skill during the first half prior to going down to 10 men.

The end result was getting a game-tying goal from star forward Gregorio Calvillo off a looping pass that the senior forward got his head on ahead of Montverde keeper Victor Spaggiari's attempt at a clearance.

Calvillo collided with Spaggiari, and rested for most of the match following the 16th minute goal. But the display was quite indicitave of the performance given by the entire Palmetto unit.

"I don't know how many guys would stick their head in there on that one," Dahlquist said. "It was a great goal, and he showed why he's one of the best players in the area."

Montverde received goals from Diego Campos (two) and Andre Shinyashiki.

Some players, which included Calvillo and senior midfielder Javis Paniagua drew the attention of the Eagles coaching staff following the match for their efforts.

"Our big goal in doing all this is to help kids, whether it's our team or the other team," Montverde head coach Mike Potempa said. "They definitely have three or four kids that we would love to help get to college programs, because we think they are good enough."

So while the match didn't go Palmetto's way, the performance was a solid takeaway for Dahlquist as he looks to the future of this season.

"To play that long, 10 v. 11, against the best team in the country, I think it bodes well for us," Dahlquist said.

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