Corona del Mar High is reeling a bit as the Pacific Coast League boys’ soccer season kicks into gear, and if the Sea Kings want to defend their title, they can’t drop another point.
That’s CdM coach George Larsen’s analysis following Thursday afternoon’s 2-1 defeat at Beckman, which left his team with its second setback in as many games in league play. Finding a solution won’t be simple.
Star striker Kyle Mabwa, one of Orange County’s best talents, is done for the season. Mabwa said he suffered a major knee injury during training a week ago. He said that his anterior cruciate, medial collateral and lateral collateral ligaments were torn when he stepped into a groove on the practice field.
The Sea Kings need to figure out how to proceed without the senior.
“We’re kind of reinventing our team without Kyle,” Larsen said after CdM’s comeback attempt fell just short. “With Kyle and with some of the other pieces, because it doesn’t just affect losing one good player. We’re having to tinker. We spent all preseason working on something, and now we’re reinventing.
“It has affected the confidence and psyche of the team. We were trending really well, and I think people were excited about the potential of this team. And you can just sense that there’s a little bit of confidence [missing].”
The Sea Kings (7-4-1 overall) have struggled to create opportunities without Mabwa, and finding players who can replace his goals is an ongoing concern.
They outshot Beckman 22-10, but the Sea Kings didn’t challenge Patriots goalkeeper Andy Ortiz until near the end, when Jett Bonner poked home a rebound to halve the deficit in the 74th minute and Niko Urban forced a leaping save four minutes into stoppage.
Kyle didn’t just have physical abilities, he had the mental attitude of a forward. That’s tough.
Corona del Mar coach George Larsen
After a strong first 20 minutes, CdM lacked movement and cohesion up top. Beckman (6-2-4, 1-0-1 in league), despite going down to 10 men when Trevor Lyon was red-carded late in the first half, took advantage through counterattacks and set pieces.
Beckman’s John Cisneros scored both goals, his eighth and ninth of the season. He finished from the top of the six-yard box after Ahmadshaw Sadozai’s free kick from midfield was nodded down by a defender four minutes into the second half, then tallied again on a 53rd-minute counter. He scored another in the 70th but was flagged offside.
CdM needs such a scorer.
“We don’t have a lot of forward types,” Larsen said. “It’s almost like converting midfielders, and they’re used to facilitating and feeding. You can’t just make players [into] forwards, because it’s part of a personality trait. Kyle didn’t just have physical abilities, he had the mental attitude of a forward. That’s tough.
“We’re not the same team, but at the same time, we have a good team. Now we’ve got to kind of show what we’re made of and pick ourselves up and be humble enough to go back to work and try and salvage as much as we can of the season.”
The league title might already be out of reach, Larsen warned. The Sea Kings went 8-0-2 during their unbeaten league title run last season.
“We’d have to win out,” he said. “The magic number in this league has been eight [victories]. If you can’t get to eight, you’re not going [to be champion], but at this point, that’s a long way away. We need to get on the right track. ... We’re obviously chasing, so that’s what we’re going to do, is chase.”
SCOTT FRENCH is a contributor to Times Community News. Follow him on Twitter: @ScottJFrench