The Creston boys soccer team committed a few too many costly penalties here Monday in a 3-2 season-opening loss to Council Bluffs St. Albert in the first meeting between the two teams as Hawkeye 10 Conference opponents.
St. Albert junior Cole McBride scored the deciding goal off a penalty kick with 5:38 left in the second half, giving the Falcons a 3-1 lead over Creston.
It was the second penalty kick of the game for the Falcons, after Creston goalkeeper Alex Nielsen made a sprawling save to his right with 13:23 left in the first half.
Nielsen finished the game with six saves.
The Falcons also punched in a goal with 29:08 to go in the second half on a Sam Sneed free kick, tying the score at 1-1.
“We gave up a couple of penalties that ended up being key to us,” Creston head coach Jesus Rodriguez said. “We’ve got to address that in practice. You’re going 100 miles (an hour), and then when you go into the forward, you slow down and see what he’s going to do, but while applying pressure.
“But this time, it wasn’t like that. We just ran right into them. I told the guys, that’s going to happen every time in the box if you run into a forward like that.”
The Panthers had an opportunity to take an early lead when junior forward Conner Pals got loose on a breakaway, but his shot from straight on went straight into the arms of St. Albert’s keeper.
Creston had another scoring opportunity with 15:00 left in the first half, but Jake Miller’s shot to the far right post went just wide.
After a 30-minute weather delay with 10:00 remaining in the first half, the two teams entered halftime knotted at 0-0.
But the Panthers finally struck gold with 34:22 to go in the second half, when Levi Eblen executed a throw-in to the box, where Pals headed it home past the keeper.
“I noticed when the keeper was warming up, we’ve got to test the keeper,” Rodriguez said. “Levi has a pretty long throw, and I started sending him from the final third into the box. He threw it in and Conner had a header and headed it in.”
McBride’s goal gave the Falcons enough cushion to hang on for the win, but it was Tayler Patten’s strike with his left foot from the left side of the field to the upper 90, far post, that gave the Falcons their first lead of the game at 2-1 with 7:10 remaining.
Even trailing 3-1, the Panthers didn’t give up.
Freshman Ben Irr sent a free kick from 35 yards out over the wall of defenders, tucking it in just beneath the crossbar to bring Creston to within 3-2 with 5:13 remaining.
“Ben is a freshman, but he’s a pretty good player and has a pretty good left,” Rodriguez said. “I told him to just put it on frame and see what happens. That’s what he did.”
Rodriguez said he would have liked to have seen his team take more shots at St. Albert’s keeper.
“One of the things I saw was they had a weak keeper and we didn’t test him enough,” Rodriguez said. “Both times we hit it on target, they were goals. That was one of the things that killed us today. We had shots and we wanted to dribble through three or four guys instead of just hitting it and seeing what happens.”
The Panthers have a quick opportunity to show improvement, as they host Chariton tonight in a JV and varsity doubleheader, beginning at 5 p.m. with JV action followed by varsity action.
Creston sits at 0-1 overall and 0-1 in the Hawkeye 10 Conference with the loss, while St. Albert improved to 2-2 for the season and 1-0 in the conference.
“Great effort from the guys,” Rodriguez said. “I can’t say they didn’t not try. Unfortunately, the ball didn’t roll our way. As we play more games, the jitters are going to go away.”
Council Bluffs St. Albert 3, Creston 2
Creston (2) — Conner Pals goal (Levi Eblen assist), 34:22 second half; Ben Irr goal, 5:13 second half. Shots on goal — 9. Individual shots — Conner Pals 2, Gavin Woods 1, Ben Irr 1, Kaleb Cook 1. Keeper saves — Alex Nielsen 6. Cards — Levi Eblen (Y).
CBSA (3) — Sam Sneed goal, 29:08 second half; Tayler Patten goal, 7:10 second half; Cole McBride goal, 5:38 second half.