When it comes to the tense nature of playoff soccer, the team that scores first has a big advantage.
That is especially true for Sachse, who has developed a reputation over the years as a team that does not relinquish a lead.
That held true once again on Friday, as the Mustangs struck first on a goal by Dalessandro Rios in the 18th minute and the defense made sure it held up until the end to claim a 1-0 victory over Mansfield Lake Ridge in a Class 6A Region 2 quarterfinal match at Homer B. Johnson Stadium.
Sachse improves to 20-3-4 and advances to take on Cypress Bridgeland (17-4-4) in the regional semifinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Mexia.
“It’s always nerve racking, these games are always going to be close, and the fact that we didn’t have school today made things worse because we were just sitting around anticipating,” Sachse head coach Jacob Bruehl said. “We were fortunate, they have an outstanding player in No. 9 (Jax Turley) and he is injured and that slowed them down a little, but sometimes at this point, you have to get some breaks, you have to get lucky and we had that tonight.”
Both teams had early scoring chances that were turned away, but the Mustangs were able to strike first in the 18th minute.
Harun Spahalic sent a long throw-in into the Lake Ridge box. The Eagles defense attempted to clear, but the ball landed at the foot of Rios, who sent a 15-yard blast just inside the near post to give Sachse a 1-0 lead.
“We’ve only lost one time in nine years when we’ve scored first, so it’s pretty good odds when we can get that first one, we’re going to hang on,” Bruehl said. “And we’ve defended really well this year, hanging on, getting in the way of shots, but the first one is big for us, being able to mentally relax a little bit knowing we have one to give if it should happen, but credit to Lake Ridge, they were outstanding tonight and pushed us until the end and we were fortunate enough to get the goal and get the win.”
Sachse had chances to extend the lead, but as the match progressed, more and more of the pressure fell on the defense, especially as Lake Ridge turned up its attack in an effort to net the equalizer.
Mustangs keeper Carlos Vasquez turned aside a 1-on-1 late in the first half to preserve the lead and then made a diving save on a close-range shot early in the second.
The Sachse defensive unit was one that had questions early on in the season, but has risen to the occasion in the playoffs. Many of Lake Ridge’s shots never even reached Vasquez, as they were blocked in front and cleared out of danger by Mustang defenders, which has been a common theme as they posted their seventh shutout in their last eight matches.
“Carlos in goal had three huge saves and he’s done that all season,” Breuhl said. “Our right back, No. 18, Derick Ramirez is a scrappy player who had never played defense before but has really come on.
“The guy that runs the show is Reece Spears there in the middle, and he’s playing on a high ankle sprain, but he wanted to gut it out and I can’t say enough about that kid. Harun Spahalic is kind of our enforcer and does a lot of different things for us and then Erick Martins, if you asked me before the season if he was going to start varsity, I would have said I don’t think he was going to start JV, but he is fearless and when he got his chance, he grabbed it, so that group played really, really well tonight.”
Though Sachse might not have the reputation that some of the other local soccer powers boast, they are not in uncharted waters.
This is the Mustangs’ sixth consecutive playoff appearance—seven if counting last season when they had already qualified. During that stretch, they made a run to the regional championship in 2017 and were in this same regional semifinal round two years ago.
Though there were questions back in January, those have largely been answered, and Sachse is not ready for its journey to end just yet.
“This team is different. Last year, everything went through Miguel Adoboe and he’s now in Spain. This year, everybody was thinking, how are we going to score, how are we going to do this because that was our identity last year” Bruehl said. “This team, what keeps us going and what makes us successful is there is not an ego on the team, they are so unselfish and whoever is on the field is who they are cheering on, so if we can keep that going and not get those egos involved, then I like our chances next round.”