Verona junior Alex Klimm and his boys soccer teammates had to wait to play their season opener after a nonconference game against McFarland was rained out.

Then, in a nonconference showdown against Oregon, the Wildcats had a two-goal lead slip away in the final 15 minutes and lost the opener to the Panthers 4-3 on Thursday, Aug. 26, at the Verona Area Soccer Stadium.

Klimm said the difference in the final 10 minutes against Oregon was the energy level.

“We just stopped marking and let them run right through us,” he said. “On the set plays, no one marked in the box.”

Verona (1-1) rebounded to beat Homestead 4-1 on Saturday, Aug. 28.

Verona 4, Homestead 1

The Wildcats exploded for three goals in the second half en route to a win over Homestead on the road Aug. 28.

“Overall, the team was not happy with the manner in which we lost the game to Oregon,” Verona coach Dave Perkins said. “However, we used the loss as a great learning tool.”

Verona senior Conor Bruce scored a goal at 1 minute, 13 seconds.

In the nonconference matchup against Homestead, Perkins said the turning point was when goalkeeper Alex Knoll saved a penalty kick with the Wildcats leading 1-0. Knoll later suffered an injury and was replaced by Liam Updegrove.

Verona senior Noah Hook scored on an assist by sophomore Connor Gage in the 41st minute to give the WIldcats a 2-0 lead.

In the 66th minute, Verona senior Brennan Bruni scored on an assist from senior Brooks Luttinen to give the Wildcats a 3-1 lead. Sophomore teammate Cristian Flores Lopez capped the scoring with a goal on an assist by Bruce at 68:03.

Oregon 4, Verona 3

Oregon junior Noah Malcook scored the game-winning goal with 18 seconds left to propel the Panthers to a thrilling win over Verona in a nonconference showdown between two teams that made a run to the sectional last spring. The Wildcats were the Division 1 state champions in 2019 and Oregon was the Division 2 state champion.

Klimm scored one goal and had an assist.

Klimm said the breakdown was a lack of communication and organization.

“We just didn’t know what we were doing on set pieces,” he said. “Both teams had to deal with the heat. That’s not an excuse.”

Early on, the Panthers got off to an inauspicious start and it looked like the Wildcats would run away with the victory. Verona had a goal wiped out by an offsides penalty in the seventh minute. Only five minutes later, Klimm had a shot ricochet off the top cross bar.

Klimm finally found the back of the net with a goal at 13:30 on an assist by junior Brian Vazquez Trejo.

“I just took a touch around him (Farrar) and beat him with pace,” Klimm said.

About four minutes later, the Panthers knocked in a goal while trying to clear a shot by Verona to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.

Oregon freshman Kellen Diercks scored after a corner kick in the 23rd minute to cut Verona’s lead to 2-1 at the half.

In the 43rd minute, Verona sophomore Noah Hook scored off a pass just to the right of Oregon goalkeeper Casey Farrar and snuck in a goal inside the near post to give the Wildcats a 3-1 lead.

Oregon junior Mason Diercks scored in the 51st minute on an assist from Colin Vandermause to slice Verona’s lead to 3-2.

Oregon coach Chris Mitchell said it’s hard to adjust a style of play or strategy in soccer during the run of play. Oregon senior Eli Lehmann had the game-tying goal off a rebound from junior Anthony Elert’s shot in the 75th minute to tie the game 3-3. Senior Alex Rodriguez assisted on the goal.

“We never felt like we weren’t in it,” Mitchell said. “That was a big goal. We were most successful when we were patient with the ball.”

It was a contrasting style because Verona was most effective when they had a quick counter attack and the Panthers gave the ball up, Mitchell said.

Verona had a slight edge in shots on goal 9-8 over Oregon. Farrar had a game-high eight saves. Yet, Verona had multiple shots that hit the post or sailed over the top cross bar. The missed opportunities are the ones that Klimm will remember.

Klimm said he and his Verona teammates definitely have to work on finishing.

“We had way too many opportunities in the box not to have at least more than five goals,” he said.

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