NEW PORT RICHEY — Gulf coach Steve Emerson is looking forward to the point in the season when he can use the same starting lineup for consecutive games.
Injuries have plagued the Buccaneers from their opener. Emerson estimated he has had at least two players missing in every one of Gulf's matches.
In a 4-1 loss to district foe Pasco on Tuesday, the Buccaneers were again hampered by the absence of critical pieces to their team.
Junior midfielder Jared Perlmutter missed the Pasco match and likely the rest of the season after tearing his ACL in a game against Tampa Catholic before the Thanksgiving break.
Senior forward Petar Andjelic, one of the county's most skilled players with the ball at his feet, will probably miss a game or two after suffering a knock on his right leg late against the Pirates.
And brothers Nick and Chris Osterer were absent after the death of their father earlier in the day, which the Buccaneers acknowledged by wearing black arm bands and observing a moment of silence at halftime.
"We're still trying to put it together," Emerson said. "We've got some talent, but we're still playing with combinations and trying to find the best one."
Pasco (5-0) went ahead 2-0 in the first half after a pair of goals from senior forward Eric Garcia. In the sixth minute, Garcia brought down a lob pass in the box from Daniel Corona and flicked a soft shot toward goal that slipped past Gulf goalkeeper Kevin Thompson (eight saves).
Ten minutes later, Garcia stole the ball from a Gulf defender and scored on the breakaway.
"Unfortunately, we had a few mental lapses," Emerson said. "I preached before the game that we couldn't fall asleep, even for one quick second or they're going to capitalize."
Gulf (2-2-2) got back into the game after halftime behind a well-struck goal from Travis Jehs and saves from Thompson.
In the 44th minute, Andjelic showed off nifty footwork to move the ball around the Pasco defense. He slid a pass to Jehs inside the box, and Jehs sent a left-footed shot toward the far post that beat Pirates goalkeeper Jeremy Twining (seven saves).
Pasco, though, answered. Thompson made a diving save to deny Pasco's Dillon Dunbar on a breakaway, but the ball bounced to Jose Flores, who scored with the keeper out of position.
Pasco added an insurance goal in much the same fashion. Dunbar was turned away on a breakaway after a stop by Thompson, but the rebound was one-timed home by Bravilo Cervantes.
"It's always been a tough game for us over here at Gulf for whatever reason," Pasco coach Barry Grayling said. "If it wasn't for their goalkeeper, maybe we could have had a couple more. I must give praise to their goalie because he did play well."