By Simon Thomas
The Whatcom Orcas took on first-place Peninsula Pirates on Oct. 8 in a game that ended in a 1-1 draw, with key player, Alain Murhula, tying the score in the closing moments of the match, frustrating the only undefeated team in the league.
As the Orcas prepare to meet the Shoreline Dolphins on Oct. 12, they’re hoping to build momentum in the last month of the season to maintain their opportunity to go to the playoffs.
The last time these two teams met on Sept. 24, Murhula continued to hold his position as top-scorer with another goal in a 3-1 win.
Similar to his favorite player, Cristiano Ronaldo, Murhula uses his pace to come in from the wing to create scoring opportunities. Murhula has scored six times this season.
Murhula has only been in America since 2014, yet he has already earned himself the honor of being the 2015-16 Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year for his exemplary character on and off the field.
His love for soccer began in the Congo when he was 4 years old, in the year 2000.
“I did not have my own cleats and good soccer ball, but we would make a ball with plastic bags. We would tie all of them together with rope really well. If you had seen it, you would have thought it was a soccer ball,” said Murhula.
When Murhula moved to a refugee camp in Uganda when he was 9 years old, the program, Right to Play, helped his community get soccer balls and organized teams. He credits playing in the adult leagues at 15 in Uganda for his strength and composure as an athlete.
“I really thank God for everything,” Murhula said, when speaking about how soccer has helped him find a home in the U.S. Furthermore, Murhula has found a home at Whatcom.
“This team is more like a family than I was ever used to,” he said.
Team captain Eric Jones, who leads the team with four assists, who said, “Alain is a great teammate. No matter what the situation is he always has a smile on his face. Not only that but also pushes everyone to their fullest potential.”
Jones said the message the coaches try to give the players before a game is “to leave it out on the field because you never know when your last game will be. Also, to have fun and enjoy the ride.”
Throughout the season the Orcas have won seven out of their first 10 games. They’ll be attempting to pressure Peninsula out of their first place spot as the season comes to a close. The team will be looking to use the upcoming game against Shoreline as a chance to compete at the playoffs. Orca attacking midfielder, Fahat Yogol, scored twice last time these teams met.
The game against Shoreline will be their first game this week before they face the Skagit Valley Cardinals. Here the team will try to repeat their previous winnings against the Cardinals upcoming on Oct. 15. The most previous match between these two sides ended with a penalty save, by Orca goalkeeper Manuel Mendez, which secured victory in the last minute of the game.
“I was really nervous,” said Mendez, who made eight saves in the 1-1 draw against Peninsula. “When he looked right I began to lean right, but I faked and when he shot down the middle I was there,” he said.
Speaking about what the team has to focus on ahead of the game, Mendez said, “we must use everything we learn at practice, and go out and give it a hundred percent.”
The game against Shoreline will be at Orca Field at 4:15 p.m.