WARRENTON - File this one under "Encouraging losses."

The Astoria boys soccer team lost its season opener 3-1 to La Salle Thursday afternoon at the Warrenton Soccer Complex, but it wasn't all that bad, considering ...

Astoria lost last year's opener to La Salle 5-0, giving up all five goals in the first half. The Falcons are considered to be the top team in the state, with experience (nine seniors), size and plenty of talent on the field.

On the other hand - or foot, if you'd rather - the Falcons were missing their top scorer and still dominated the shots on goal and time of possession in Thursday's contest.

The Fishermen were on the defensive for most of the afternoon, and goalkeeper Henry Brause was one of the busiest players on the field.

Brause knocked down most everything kicked his way, while the Astoria defense made the Falcons work hard for their scores.

"Not bad for a first day," said Astoria coach Jerry Boisvert. "I'm not displeased. We're way ahead of where we were last year, and that's a big plus.

"I don't think we played well as a team, and that's what we have to work on," he said. "The beauty was watching La Salle, and how they move the ball around, and the danger of their crosses. You always learn something by playing better teams, so there was no disappointment."

La Salle had 29 shots on goal, and scored first in the 17th minute, when Patrick Bullock punched a short-range shot into the net off an assist from freshman Ryan Brand.

Three minutes later, sophomore Andy Schroeder delivered a penalty kick into the lower right side of the net, past a diving Brause.

Astoria responded just one minute later as senior Philip Gaffney stunned the Falcons by scoring off a deflection, representing Astoria's first shot on goal.

The Fishermen had two more scoring opportunities in the final 10 minutes of the first half, but a missile shot from foreign exchange student Peter Springer sailed over the cross bar, and Micah Schauermann was wide right with his shot in the 39th minute.

Scoring after La Salle's penalty kick "kept us in the game," Boisvert said. "It was real important to score a goal at that point. To give away the PK was really demoralizing, because part of our goal was that we didn't want to be scored on five times this year."

Astoria had few legitimate shots on goal in the second half, as the Falcons controlled the ball for most of the final 40 minutes, scoring in the 33rd minute on a short range attempt by Erik Kummer.

After a crossing pass from Andy Benes, Brause knocked down the initial shot on goal before the ball deflected to Kummer.

"Their crosses were all dangerous," Boisvert said. "They didn't tax Henry in the first half, so the defense did a good job. Henry is clearly one of the better keepers in the state and made some great saves for us. He just energizes the defense."

In addition, "the athletic effort of Reese (Kauppi) and Josie (Macareno) chasing down balls ... we don't have a lot of size, but we can make that up with some aggression and speed. I was really pleased with the guys in the middle."

While Boisvert complimented the Falcons, La Salle coach Chris Thurley was equally impressed with Astoria's effort.

"I think they'll be the No. 1 seed out of their league, and I'd say they're in the top six in state right now," Thurley said. "Without a doubt, I'd put them in the top six. Jerry does a great job in organizing things here."

The Falcons still have a ways to go, Thurley added.

"Our finishing is bad right now. We had about 29 shots, and half of those were from point-blank range. Our leading scorer (Scott Bernards) is out, but we can't make excuses. Astoria did a good job today.

"I think if they get a good draw at state, they could easily get to the semifinals."

The Fishermen play at Estacada Tuesday.

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