T-Birds lose star player Ryley Johnson before semifinal
By Jarrett Spallino - Staff Reporter
Highline's men's soccer team enters the semifinals tomorrow without its star player.
The T-Birds star player Ryley Johnson will be missing not just this game, but the championship if they advance. The champion- ship match is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Sunday at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila.
"In our (Oct. 24) game against Tacoma, he hurt his knee. He got his MRI results back and he has a dislocated knee cap," Highline Head Coach Steve Mohn said. "It changes our game plan a little bit, but we have a bunch of guys that can step up."
Players such as Jason Rodriguez and Alex Velasco will need to be key components as the T-Birds defend their 2017 NWAC title.
Rodriguez and Velasco have a combined 27 goals and 13 assists heading into the semifinal game.
Highline and Columbia Basin played Saturday night at Starfire Field.
"A couple guys stepped up and played really well. The team chemistry was definitely there and the players bought into it," Mohn said.
Rodriguez scored two goals, both in the second half. Marcus Machado had one goal and one assist.
"I thought we were defending pressure really good," Mohn said.
He was concerned, however, with the T-Birds' start.
"I think we needed to have a quicker start," he said.
One of the benefits of finishing first in the West Region is being able to start the playoffs with a home-field advantage.
"To be able to get the first play- off game at home definitely helped a little," Mohn said.
Whatcom had played its quarter final game earlier against Spokane.
Whatcom won 1-0. Keegan Rubio was the only player to score a goal.
There were six yellow cards throughout the game and one red card for Spokane's Alex Nana.
Meanwhile, Pierce and Walla Walla played their quarterfinal game last Saturday, too.
Pierce won 3-0.
Marcus Santos, Tate Hamlett and Carlos Rodriguez each scored one goal.
Tacoma also played SW Oregon last Saturday.
The game resulted in a 2-2 tie but Tacoma advanced on penalty kicks. Masa Fukushima and Bubacar Touray each scored an unassisted goal.
As a result, Tacoma will play Pierce in the NWAC semifinals tomorrow at Starfire Stadium at 5:30 p.m.
Tacoma's star players are Bubacar Touray and Alex Whiting.
Touray leads the league in goals with 24, and Whiting leads the league in assists with 13.
"We must make the most of our chances and be stingy defensively. Always be present and take care of the game in front of us," Tacoma Head Coach Jason Prenovost said.
Highline will play Whatcom in the other NWAC semifinal match tomorrow at Starfire Stadium at 8 p.m.
"Something I think we could improve for the semifinal game is everyone needs to be on the same boat, have fun while you play, and I think we can [keep] working on passing through the middle and keeping the ball. If we keep the ball and play one and two touch nobody will be able to contain us," Rodriguez said
Whatcom's lead scorer is Keegan Rubio, who has 10 goals and five assists. Whatcom is also heading into the game on a three-win streak.
"It's a big game for us. The playoffs bring a lot more intensity and last week's win was a good boost of momentum," Mohn said.
And one way or another, Johnson will be there both in body and spirit.
"We just have to keep moving forward and Ryley (Johnson) is right there on the bench supporting us, even at practice."