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Birmingham Comes Up a Bit Short, 1-0

March 02, 2000|CHRIS SHAFFER

No John Ortega, big problem.

Birmingham High, playing in the its first City semifinal, looked nothing like the team that earned a No. 1 seeding and captured the West Valley League title.

For a good reason.

The Patriots were without five starters, including Ortega, their top offensive player who was serving a red-card suspension. Sweeper Mike Seliga was injured in a game earlier this week, two players were academically ineligible and forward Aaron Jackson, a member of the Jamaican National team, checked out of school and returned to Jamaica.

Roosevelt took advantage of the Patriots' depleted lineup and claimed a 1-0 victory Wednesday at Birmingham, putting the Rough Riders in the final for the first time since 1977--the last time the school won the City championship.

"It's like losing your second basemen and shortstop," Coach Jose Freire of Birmingham said. "We couldn't recover."

The Rough Riders (17-2-3), behind the play of Hector Orellana, the leading scorer in the City, scored in the 23rd minute.

Midfielder Arnold Solorzona passed the ball to Orellana, who poked the ball over a defender and beat goalkeeper John Wall.

"I have no idea [how I scored], I just did," said Orellana, who scored his 34th goal.

The Patriots (19-5-3) had several opportunities in the second half after they pushed defender Mike Erush into the midfield and fed the ball to forward Jaime Gomez.

The Patriots' best chance came in injury time when Gomez crossed the ball to Erush, whose header went wide.

"There are no excuses," Erush said. "We should have finished. The guys played hard. [Roosevelt] is just a good team."

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