When forward Isaiah Concha took a circuitous route to his game-winning penalty kick Saturday (Sept. 22), his strategy was emblematic of how he and his Tiger teammates managed to eke past Bloomfield.

After turning his back on the goalkeeper and then circling back into the ball, Concha scored his fourth goal of the season to cap off a seesaw game that had both teams frustrated by close calls and spectacular goaltending. Bloomfield (4-4) relied upon a stacked defense and sharp counterattacks, while Taos (9-3) worked to push forward by switching sides of the field and creating space for offensive thrusts.

However, neither strategies produced a goal. The Tigers and the Bobcats went toe-to-toe — and scoreless — for 80 minutes of regulation time, 20 minutes of sudden-death overtime and 14 penalty kicks, before Concha settled the matter with blast that beat the Bobcat goalkeeper. 

The victory was the second in a week that extended the Tigers’ winning streak to five, and placed Taos atop the A/AAA District 1 standings with district play about to begin. On Wednesday (Sept. 19), the Tigers easily handled Moreno Valley, 3-0. 

“Bloomfield is athletic and aggressive,” said Taos coach Casey Tonrey. “They closed very quickly on us and made it hard to get anything near their net.”

Indeed, the Tigers spent most of the game probing for weaknesses in the Bobcat defense, which was anchored by goalkeeper Areil Morales who had nine saves. Two stops by Morales stood out: a diving stop of a redirection by forward Ruben Hernández in the 33rd minute of the first half, and a lunging save off forward Felipe Fluxa-Moncado with under 17 minutes left in regulation.

“Their defense was hard to get through,” said Fluxa-Moncado after the game. “They had five defenders and they were very quick to the ball.”

Taos goalkeeper Allen Palmer was equally strong in the net, highlighted by a diving block of a breakaway by Bloomfield forward Samuel Gutíerrez with two minutes left in the first half. 

For periods of time in the game, Taos dominated the Bobcats by spreading the ball around the field, and feeding its attack off through passes from the midfield. But Bloomfield’s speed negated Taos’ methodic attack, deflecting dozens of shots before they reached the net.

After an exhausting overtime, the two teams squared off for penalty kicks. Bloomfield jumped to a quick 2-0 lead but, when forward Aiden Cserhat knocked his shot in, the score was tied. From then on, shooters from both teams traded goals until Bobcat Josh Baugh’s blast went over the crossbar.

Then, it was left to Concha to circle up his wagons and hit the game winner.

“The pressure is all on the shooters because they are obligated to score,” said Palmer, the team’s captain. “I just try to psyche them out.”

Sports@TaosNews.com

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