CLEARWATER — Despite walking off the field a 4-1 winner, Countryside coach David Sica looked admiringly down the sideline toward a defeated Clearwater squad Tuesday as the Tornadoes packed their belongings after yet another close loss.
Countryside broke open a 1-1 tie in the second half by scoring three goals in a 25-minute span, but it was the fight the Tornadoes showed in defeat that caught the veteran coach's attention.
Clearwater chased the Cougars all over the field, applying constant pressure that kept Countryside slightly off-balance. The Tornadoes never quit, and Sica hoped that mentality might rub off on his players.
"If I could get my guys to work as hard as their guys, we'd be a better team," Sica said. "(Clearwater's) work rate is second to none in this county. I honestly believe that they work harder than any other team in this county."
The Tornadoes may have wanted the win more, but it was the Cougars (7-2-1) who converted when it counted.
Countryside's Jagger Martinez scored a pivotal goal with four minutes left in the first half after it appeared the Tornadoes would keep the Cougars off the scoreboard for the first 40 minutes.
Clearwater (2-7), though, answered almost immediately after the break when sophomore forward Jarrett Lyons ran onto a perfectly threaded pass and scored to equalize in the game's 45th minute.
That's when Countryside's relentless attack started to take over. The Cougars' Zach Morel sent a header into goal two minutes after Clearwater scored to regain the lead. Max Seijo one-timed Cory Sauerwine's cross into goal to make it 3-1 with 12 minutes remaining, and Dalton Martinez put the game out of reach after ripping a shot from the 18 that slid just inside the far post.
"I'm happy with the way that we fought after giving up the goal," Sica said. "We stepped it up."