Soccer: Opening minute goals jolt Auburn to top of standings

Auburn sits in first in 3A NPSL one year removed from one-win season.

Auburn High School’s boys soccer team one year ago was treading water, searching for a lifeline — looking for some sort of structure to restore their program and be competitive once again.

Since spring sports resumed following the pandemic, Auburn has won just three soccer games across three seasons. This season under first year Head Coach Skyler Roehr, the Trojans have now won three games so far after defeating Kent-Meridian 2-1 on April 8. This win marks the first time since 2021 where the Trojans have won back-to-back games.

Kent-Meridian is no slouch of a squad either. Last year the Royals went to the state tournament for the first time since 1981, and defeated Auburn 4-1 in last year’s one meeting.

This year, however, the game went the way of the Trojans and went their way quickly. Auburn hasn’t always started quickly, but with attention to detail in practice as well as off the field discipline, the Trojans have become the best version of themselves.

“It was about building intensity in training. Getting guys disciplined, getting them here on time, not messing around in the stands. When you get to training, it is serious and that has started translating to games,” Roehr said.

Auburn came out with a different level of ferocity toward Kent-Meridian that might have caught the Royals by surprise. Before fans had gotten into their seats, Auburn was up 2-0.

The Trojans won a corner kick and Ryan Lal was left unmarked at the back post and scored the first goal of the game with relative ease.

Not even 30 seconds later, on a beauty of a ball sent in by Luis Dominguez, Hassan Abu used a bit of creativity to avoid the keeper and cashed in for the Trojans’ second goal of the game.

A difference in two years is much due in part to the structure that Skyler has placed so far this year, along with a thought process that they can win games.

“There is just a lot more belief. In previous years they were getting used to losing results and being OK with it. I think now I have instilled some discipline and a winning mentality in these guys,” Roehr said.

The one mixup for Auburn keeper Andrew Morales came two minutes later when he was caught off of his line and Kent-Meridian took advantage of it for their lone goal of the game.

Morales was locked down from that moment forward.

“He is our biggest vocal leader on the field and with his play. He’s not even a goalkeeper, he was a center back last year and stepped up and said ‘I want to do something special with this team.’ He helps build confidence in our guys,” Roehr said.

In the second half of the contest, Kent-Meridian and Auburn were both looking for opportunities. The Royals, however, forced Auburn to sit back and defend on their heels. The aggressiveness the Trojans played with in the first half was just missing.

The Trojans wanted to hold serve at home all season and did just that.

“We haven’t been great at home,” Roehr said.

The Trojan team thought this was their opportunity to do so, and when they built a lead, their mentality changed a little bit.

“It was definitely a little scary in moments… They really wanted to hold on to those three points. We defended pretty well,” Roehr said.

They were able to battle the rain and the Royals’ desperation attempts at goal. Auburn leap-frogged Kent-Meridian and Auburn Mountainview and now sit on top of the standings in the 3A NPSL.

“I think we are going to keep shocking the league a little bit with some of these results,” Roehr said.

Nolan Carillo takes on and avoids a Royal defender in the 2-1 win. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Nolan Carillo takes on and avoids a Royal defender in the 2-1 win. Ben Ray / The Reporter