Kelso coach Kemal Vejo has been around long enough to know what it takes to make the playoffs. And that means not dropping home games against teams in the bottom half of the league.
Alas, the Scotties’ youthful roster, which boats just three seniors, hasn’t received the same lesson yet. They got a dose of it, though, on Tuesday, falling 2-1 to Fort Vancouver at Schroeder Field. It’s the second consecutive home league defeat for the Scots (0-2 league, 2-6).
“It is really frustrating,” Kelso coach Kemal Vejo said. “When I looked at the schedule and see first three home games against teams we really have to beat to make playoffs. Losing points against Prairie and Fort, it’s going to make things tougher.”
And it was the same struggles that plagued Kelso for the fourth consecutive game. The Scotties couldn’t find the net.
Kelso dominated the first 15 minutes of the game. Angel Hernandez got a couple good chances that flew just wide. Sebastian Valencia smacked the upright with a shot. But Kelso couldn’t get it past Fort Vancouver’s lanky goalkeeper.
“We opened the game pretty well, but after that we just stopped playing,” Vejo said. “There’s some kind of mental block. … I have this feeling that we are afraid of winning.”
Fort Vancouver made the Scots pay for that, when the Trappers rifled a 25-yard blast past Blake Sweider with 30 seconds remaining in the first half.
The Trappers used the momentum to control the game from there. Kelso soon lost control of the midfield in the second half, and chances came few and far between in the second half.
Enter Alan Luff, whose substitution in the final 20 minutes sparked life into the Hilander attack. In the 73rd minute, he collected the ball at the top of the penalty area, and fed it to Tommy Kiffe, who fired a low liner into the far netting to tie the game.
“I tried everything when things didn’t work,” Vejo said. “They didn’t give up. That’s the only positive thing I see.”
But Fort Vancouver quickly countered with a breakaway game-winner in the 77th minute that squeaked by Carlos Enrique Cruz, who made two brilliant saves on the evening.
The Scotties face a must-win situation on Friday at home against Hudson’s Bay before a five-game road trip.
“Losing this game is really going to push us back,” Vejo said. “It’s a hard road ahead of us. We have to beat these guys (on the road), Prairie (on the road) and Hudson’s Bay twice to have a chance. It’s going to be hard, but we are in this situation, and we have to find a solution.”