BLADENSBURG – Dylan Portillo knew he only had a split second to make a decision to shoot or hold on to the ball.
The junior striker for the Bladensburg High School boys soccer team received a cross into the penalty area of DuVal High School. After trapping the ball by the far side goalpost, a Tiger defender and their goalkeeper dove towards his way to block a possible shot.
Portillo had different ideas as he dragged the ball with his right foot before bringing it back to his left, causing both DuVal players to dive away from the goal net. With an empty net, Portillo calmly kicked the tying goal for the Mustangs in the 11th minute.
“He has improved on developing a quicker touch,” Head Coach Juliana Ocampos-Barry said on Portillo’s growth. “He’s more quick thinking and now, can pull the trigger.”
Portillo’s play was his first of two goals in a bounce-back afternoon for Bladensburg. Last year’s 4A regional champions were overwhelmed by DuVal’s physicality throughout the first half. However, a quick start to the second half and fierce attacking pushed the Mustangs to score three unanswered goals to defeat the Tigers 5-1 on Sept. 30.
The victory is a step forward for Bladensburg (4-2) after losing to Parkdale 2-1 on Sept. 26. After losing several senior leaders following last year’s successful season, the Mustangs regrouped under a younger group than years prior, Ocampos-Berry said.
“We have really tried to be more positive and understand that mistakes happen,” she said. “But we have to get over it and stay together as a team because we are at our best when we stay together, play together and work it out.”
DuVal (1-5) started strong with senior striker Williams Yami-Nono connecting with a standing scissors kick off a free kick to give the Tigers a one-goal lead in the opening six minutes. Yami-Nono, a senior, almost added a second goal after receiving a pass between two defenders, leading to a one-on-one against freshman goalkeeper José Campos Portillo. The Tigers striker dribbled around the goalkeeper and prepared to take a shot but it was cleared away by center back Alex Garcia.
“Will is a phenomenal talent,” DuVal Head Coach Jeremey Troutman said. “He is a handful on top physically, he has speed, a good shot, willing to take people on one-on-one and when his work rate is high, our team succeeds.”
Five minutes before halftime, Bladensburg midfielder José Argueta sent a cross into the DuVal penalty area to his brother and freshman Erick Argueta. The young striker fired a one-time left-footed volley into the net to give Bladensburg a 2-1 advantage.
At the start of the second half, Bladensburg played with the same 11 players that ended the first to take advantage of their speed and passing abilities, Ocampos-Barry said. The strategy worked as Bladensburg fired shots at will at the Tigers goal net.
“We did not keep up the pressure and play together from the beginning,” José Argueta, who finished with three assists, said. “That’s why we started the first half so slow but we kept the pressure up the second half.”
Junior Cristian Ayala capitalized on the extra attacking pressure by releasing a chip shot over goalkeeper Felix Nolasco for Bladensburg’s third goal of the contest. Portillo added his second goal of the game with 15 minutes remaining as he drove inside the penalty area before unleashing a right-footed shot to make it 4-1.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, right winger Roman Gonzalez looked to cross the ball into DuVal territory for another attack. However, the over 30-yard cross floated from the right sideline into the top right corner of the net for the Mustangs’ fifth goal of the game, earning loud applause from the crowd of students in attendance.
Despite the loss, Troutman sees potential in his young midfield players and the way they played together with Yami-Nono. Since upsetting Bowie High School on Sep. 16, the Tigers have now lost three-straight games and will look to earn a better result playing at home against Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School (Oct. 3).
For Bladensburg, the victory allows them to refocus their attention on building more chemistry as a unit and playing better from the opening whistle, Ocampos-Barry said. The Mustangs will travel to take on Laurel High School on Oct. 3 before returning home to face Suitland on Oct. 7 as they look to win consecutive regional titles.
“As long as we continue to move the ball around more, we will reach the peak of our abilities to win every single game going forward,” Portillo said.