McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Two goals from Domenico Del Prete keyed Linfield's second-half comeback, but Whitman scored with less than two minutes remaining in regulation to deal the Wildcats a heartbreaking 4-3 loss on a soggy Saturday afternoon at the Linfield soccer field.
The Missionaries (7-8-3, 5-5-2 NWC) scored the only goal of the first half before the Wildcats (7-9, 5-7 NWC) stormed back to take a 3-1 lead. But the visitors tallied three scores over the final 17 minutes to steal the victory and overtake the ‘Cats in the Northwest Conference standings. Whitman moved up to fifth place, dropping Linfield to sixth.
Wet conditions made for poor field conditions that got progressively worse as the game wore on. Though it was difficult to maintain possession, neither club had trouble scoring.
Early on in the opening period, Del Prete got a great look at the goal. His shot ricocheted off the cross and appeared, even to some of the Wildcats, to have crossed the goal line, but the referee gave the signal to play on.
Eight minutes later, Whitman won its first corner of the match. Jose Heleche served the ball from the left side of the field and found the head of Cooper Schmaucher. His shot was deflected by a Linfield defender, but was already on its way to the right corner of the net to put the Missionaries up 1-0.
Whitman nearly doubled the spread about a minute later, but Grant Loriaux made an impressive diving save near the left post to prevent a Bill Landefeld shot from going in.
Linfield matched Whitman shot-for-shot (four) over the first 45 minutes, but went into the break facing a one-goal deficit.
Recharged, the ‘Cats scored the next three goals, beginning with an unassisted goal from Del Prete in the 55th minute. The forward took aim from about 15 yards out on the right side and delivered the ball into the far post to tie the match at one goal apiece.
Danny Snelgrow gave Linfield the lead on a play that was eerily similar to the first score of the match. After receiving a pass from Jake Baker on a corner kick, Snelgrow headed the ball, which touched both keeper Michael Bathurst and a Whitman defender before finding the back of the net.
Del Prete gave the home team a larger cushion in the 72nd minute, when he played a through ball and cashed in from the right side of the 18-yard box.
The big lead proved surmountable, however. Sophomore midfielder Joe Virden got the Missionaries within one, finishing off the play after receiving a cross from Leland Mattaeus. Virden tied things up about five minutes later, this time off a rebounded shot from Reid Shaw right in front of the goal.
The matched looked destined for overtime, but Junpei Tsuji had other ideas. He gained possession and dribbled around his Linfield defender, finding room to strike the ball into the left side of the goal.
With only 1:20 remaining, the Wildcats did not have enough time to knot the score and force overtime, where they potentially could have earned the season sweep over the Missionaries.
Loriaux made a total of fives saves in the loss. Offensively, Whitman outshot Linfield 21-13, including a 17-9 advantage in the second period.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Del Prete took over the team lead in points this season, with seven goals and three assists for a total of 17 points…Baker is second with six goals and three assists…the seven combined goals matched a season high for Linfield, which lost 6-1 to UC Santa Cruz back in September.
TRIVIA QUESTION: (From last week's game story: Who holds the record for most career points in Linfield men’s soccer history?) Chris McDonald, who played for the 'Cats from 1998-2001, totaled 109 points (41 goals, 19 assists) over his career, 20 more points than the No. 2 career points leader.
COMING UP: Linfield’s final home of the season is Sunday afternoon, when league-leading Whitworth comes to town. Match time is scheduled for 2:30 p.m., immediately following Senior Day activities.