BRADENTON -- The season was on the line Wednesday night, but Manatee boys soccer Rene Mirandilla had a an interesting message for his Hurricanes.
"Relax," the venerable head coach said while standing on a tier of the bleachers lining Joe Kinnan Field at Hawkins Stadium. "You're trying to hard."
Mirandilla had a similar appraisal of his team following the match, although he was in much better spirits after the Canes did enough to beat Port Charlotte 1-0 in a Class 4A-District 11 semifinal.
The tournament's second seed and defending champion, Manatee (13-7-3) heads to top-seeded Lakewood Ranch on Friday in the district final.
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On Wednesday, the Hurricanes outshot the third-seeded Pirates 20-3, with 12 of those coming on goal, but had a hard time breaking through.
"I really can't explain it. I think the only explanation is we're trying too hard. We're trying to hard to put the ball
in the back of the net," Mirandilla said, "rather than play it just a simple way and not rush it."
The game's lone goal came in the 13th minute, when Manatee's Kevin Roman booted in his own rebound for his fifth goal of the year.
"I got a rebound from the other team," Roman said, "and it just came right to my right (foot), and I just hit it in."
Just as Manatee expected, according to its coach.
"When we try to take a shot in, somebody always tries to cover it coming from the outside," Mirandilla said. "We've done that all year long. A lot of our goals came from rebounds."
The Mustangs and Hurricanes met twice during the regular season. They played to a 1-1 tie Dec. 5 and the Mustangs won 2-1 on Nov. 12 in Lakewood Ranch.
"That's what we thought in the beginning, it was going to us in the final with them," Roman said. "It should be a good game."
Heading to East Manatee County in an attempt to upset the tournament's top seed is nothing new for the Hurricanes, who won the championship last year on the road against No.1 Braden River.
"Just a different team. We're going to try to do it again," Mirandilla said.
And though both finalists are ensured of a trip to next week's regional tournament, Friday's winner gets not only a trophy, but a first-round home match.
"You want to play for the district crown in order to bring at least the first two (regional) games home," Mirandilla said, "in order to get homefield advantage. It's always nice."
The Lakewood Ranch boys opened Class 4A-District 11 play with a 4-0 victory over Braden River. The Mustangs will play host to Manatee Friday night in the tournament final.
Ryan Sollazzo scored two goals for the Mustangs (15-5-4). Jeison Castillo assisted on his first goal and scored one goal with an assist from Jimmy Jaime. The other goal came from Jason Ferguson with an assist from Ian Nolan.
"We played very strong and used our size and our speed to our advantage," Lakewood Ranch head boys coach Vito Bavaro said.
"It's pretty much what we've been doing all year. Braden River put up a good fight. The key for us was to get on them early and control the game, and we were able to do that. As long as we did that, we felt pretty comfortable about taking care of business."
The Mustangs got a superb game from freshman goalie Liam Bramley. He had been hurt and hadn't played in six weeks.
"I had no hesitation about putting him in there. He is a strong competitor and as soon as he was ready to go I was ready to give him the ball back," Bavaro said.