Photo courtesy of Don Borin/Stop Action Photography Mercer Island captain Jack Delay, left, controls the ball while being guarded by an Issaquah player. The Eagles defeated the Islanders 2-1 in a non-league game on March 15 in Issaquah.

Islanders nearly complete comeback against Eagles

The Mercer Island boys soccer team just ran out of time against the Issaquah Eagles in a non-league matchup between two prominent high school soccer programs.

Mercer Island senior forward Jackson Kelly scored in the 56th minute, cutting Issaquah’s lead to 2-1. The Islanders played the majority of the final five minutes of the contest in Issaquah territory, but were unable to tie the game in the closing moments as the Eagles held on for a 2-1 victory on March 15 at Gary Moore Stadium in Issaquah.

Issaquah head coach Kyle Tatro wasn’t surprised the Islanders mounted a rally in the final minutes of regulation. Mercer Island, who earned second place at the Class 3A state tournament last season, is one of the top soccer programs in Washington.

“They stepped up. They knew what was on the line and they wanted to win the game. They really put us under pressure,” Issaquah head coach Kyle Tatro said. “We need to do a better job of maintaining our composure in a situation like that. There were too many hectic moments for us.”

Tatro has nothing but respect for the Mercer Island soccer program.

“Just to play well against them and hold them to one goal is big because they are so good,” Tatro said. “They are well-coached and have a lot of great players.”

The Eagles got on the board in the 39th minute on a Jack MacDonald goal. In the second half, Charlie Butler scored an insurance goal in the 53rd minute after receiving a sensational pass from teammate MacDonald. MacDonald’s cross from the right side of the field hit Butler in stride before he put the ball in the back of the net.

Mercer Island head coach Colin Rigby said his team, which has four starters returning from the 2016 season, is still trying to find its way during early-season action.

“This has been a molding preseason. The focus has been on trying to build chemistry with a lot of new guys. That has been the No. 1 thing we are working on. We use these preseason games to give everybody a chance and to look at who plays well with each other. We are still trying to come up with that final product of the starting lineup and to see what is going to work for our team and our program,” Rigby said. “We got a very systematic way of playing. We like to play on the ground and we like to possess the ball. When you play like that you have to have players that understand each other and can communicate with each other in an easy way. That is not easy to do in 10 days.”

Rigby said the core of last year’s team graduated this past June.

“When you have a major spine of the team being gone from last year, you have to make up for it with time, so time will tell. We just told the guys if they want to continue to have the success that we’ve had over the years, that they have to trust the system. They are doing that right now. They will continue to get better every game. We’re excited for it,” Rigby said.

Rigby is confident his team will get on track as the season progresses.

“We got great talent and we just need to put it together. We have an incredible defense and an incredible midfield,” he said. “When we finally get our cohesiveness it is going to be very fun to watch and dangerous for opponents for sure. I give a lot of credit to our defense right now. They are solid as a rock.”