GOSHEN — Junior Jovanny Salazar might be Morton's future at forward. But for the Governors' Class 3A Goshen Regional semifinal match Saturday against Northridge, his play at left back gave Morton a shot.
Salazar stepped in for injured senior defender Chris Cuellar, and his defensive contributions kept Morton in the game early. The Governors fell 4-2 after a nightmare second half, but Salazar's emergency defending kept the game even for the first 46 minutes.
“Asking a forward to go back and play left back on short notice, he did a wonderful job in the first half,” Morton coach Chris Jagadich said. “He really committed himself today, and we appreciate that.”
Although Salazar has played left back for his club team, the mid-season position switch posed challenges. Jagadich said Salazar met expectations and then some — his key slide tackle in the box after he said he saw Micah Cross hesitate denied Northridge an opening goal. A few minutes later, Salazar stopped Cameron Chappell in his tracks with another important slide tackle.
Salazar said he wanted to get forward and join the attack more, but he misplaced few passes. Like an elite NFL cornerback, Salazar forced Northridge to attack the opposite side of the field for much of the game.
“He really locked down their danger man, (Chappell),” Jagadich said. “It hurts when we take him out of the attack, but we pushed it forward and got a couple of goals later on.”
Early on, Morton displayed the skill that helped it climb to No. 13 in the Indiana Soccer Coaches Association poll as midfielders Adrian Bonilla, Alexis Cantero and Alessandro Reyes strung together short passes. Eventually, however, Northridge broke through with an avalanche of goals. Jonathan Mora started the run with a shot off the post and in shortly after halftime, and Stone Thompson added a second 12 minutes into the second period thanks to Cross' second assist of the game.
Morton thought it had a chance to get a goal back after Paul Bogarin went down in the box for a penalty, but the officials huddled and overturned the call after a long delay. During the roughly 10 minute stoppage, Governors and Raiders exchanged words in front of goal — Morton's red and Northridge's white tangled as cries of indignation rose from the stands.
“It's part of the game — can't really do much about it,” Salazar said. “(The seniors) fought their hardest. … They really wanted it more than anyone else.”
Chappell and Matthew Janatello added goals for the Raiders. Bogarin scored twice late, but Morton didn't get back within one goal.