The Cranston West boys’ soccer team is lucky to have junior goalkeeper James Vartanian in net, but without a little more offensive spark, his standout play still isn’t enough to lift the Falcons to wins.
Despite 22 saves from Vartanian on Monday afternoon, West came up just short in a 1-0 loss to first-place Lincoln. The Lions got a goal from Colby Alves in the 75th minute to break a scoreless deadlock and hand the Falcons another close, frustrating loss.
It was the third game this season that West lost by a 1-0 margin.
“We’ve had many games where it’s 0-0 going deep into the second half, and we’ve got to hold tight,” West head coach Jared Zimmer said. “One little mistake can cost you the game. It happened to us against Moses Brown, it happened to us today against Lincoln.”
It also happened to the Falcons against East Greenwich. For the season, they’ve scored just two total goals and are now 1-5. Lincoln improved to 4-0-2, and is the only unbeaten team in Division II.
Being that close to perhaps the top team in the division was an accomplishment for West. But it doesn’t make the close losses any easier.
“Now that I’ve gotten my feet wet in the division and I’ve seen a lot of the teams, yes we are offensively limited compared to some other teams, but we can hang,” Zimmer said. “We can hang with this division. The guys feel it too. We’re so close in these games.”
Vartanian certainly helped keep it close. Lincoln dominated the first half, but Vartanian was there for each and every shot that came his way. He made a leaping save on Alex D’Aloisio in the second minute of the game, made a sprawling save on Alves in the 15th minute and held his ground on a hard shot by John Ariza in the 28th minute.
“If I’ve got James Vartanian in goal, I’m in any game,” Zimmer said. “That kid, he’s already in the top five in the state in saves. He’s a wall back there and he keeps us in every game.”
The second half was significantly better for the Falcons offensively, as they started to generate a few chances and nearly buried a couple of them.
In the 43rd minute, Austin Raposa took a free kick from 25 yards out that Lincoln keeper Ryan Fournier saved. In the 57th, the Falcons got perhaps their best chance when Raposa received a pass just a few yards in front of the goal, whirled and tried to put it on net. But he couldn’t get a clean shot off and the ball was eventually cleared.
“The last few games we’re moving the ball better and we’re possessing the ball better,” Zimmer said. “In that last third of the field, we’re just not getting the touches we need.”
Vartanian continued to keep the game scoreless, especially with a diving save in the 70th minute to rob Alves of what looked like a surefire goal. Then in the 73rd, West had another golden opportunity when Nick Montaquila took a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box and struck it cleanly. It skirted along the grass before Fournier was able to shuffle in front of it and make the save.
“We’ve just got to keep plugging away and convert the chances that we’re given,” Zimmer said. “We’re not doing that.”
Finally, in the 75th minute, Lincoln got one past Vartanian. With the ball on the left side, a pass squeezed through a host of West defenders to the foot of Alves on the right. He made a move to sneak past another defender and then fired a low shot into the left side of the net that Vartanian had no chance of saving.
West never really put forth another charge, and the game ended as another narrow loss.
“That’s a really good team that we were going against,” Zimmer said. “A very good offensive team, a very fast team and a very veteran team.”
Still, Zimmer is comfortable with the way his team is playing, and the Falcons will have plenty more opportunities to try to pick up some wins. They were scheduled to travel to 1-1-3 Middletown on Tuesday, with the results unavailable at press time, and then travel to 1-3-1 Narragansett on Monday at 3:45 p.m.
All West needs is for a couple of its close losses to turn into wins.
“These guys, every game, are playing hard,” Zimmer said. “It’s not a question of effort, it’s not a question of desire, it’s not a question of heart. It’s a question of finishing those chances and when those come around we’re going to start beating some of those teams we face down the road.”