PASADENA — It was one of the worst ways to start what was arguably its most important match of the season.
In a first-place Pacific League battle with Pasadena on Wednesday, the Burroughs High boys’ soccer team put itself in a precarious situation after one of its players drew a red card for a foul inside the goalbox in the first 15 seconds of the contest on the road.
The Bulldogs were given a penalty kick, which they made good on. But what was more detrimental for Burroughs was that it was forced to play a man down.
Although the Indians were able to recover early to tie the score, the Bulldogs cashed in on the man-advantage and walked away with a 4-2 victory.
The win leaves Pasadena (14-0-3, 9-0-2 in league) — ranked No. 7 in CIF Southern Section Division III — alone at the top of the Pacific League standings, while Burroughs (13-3-4, 8-1-2) — No. 5 in Division III —falls to second.
The Indians put themselves at a disadvantage in the game’s opening minute when Burroughs junior defender Nick Lucero pulled down Pasadena junior Oscar Vasquez in the box, prompting a red card and forcing the visitors to play a man down. Awarded a penalty kick on the play, Pasadena sophomore Brendan Hildreth made good on the attempt to put the Bulldogs ahead, 1-0.
“It was the right call. It was a foul,” Burroughs Coach Mike Kodama said of the red card. “It was a mistake on our part.
“To give up a goal in the first minute and to be a man down, that’s a very difficult situation. It’s hard for a team to have to fight its way back from something like that.”
Playing a man down was taxing on the Burroughs players.
“It’s just mentally tough to play like that,” Burroughs senior captain and defender Michael Conrad said. “We were just trying to stay positive. After the red we all kind of fell apart and we had to get back in it.”
The Indians did recover, enough to tie the score, 1-1, in the 16th minute. Burroughs’ Andres Aguilar took a free kick from 35 yards out and the ball was punched away by Pasadena goalkeeper Isaac Monay. But the ball popped out and, with senior Brandon Gerlach rushing in on the play, the Indian was able to kick it in for a goal.
With the score tied, the Bulldogs were able to surge in front, 2-1, with a goal in the 20th minute on a Burroughs defensive breakdown.
Pasadena was then able to go into halftime with a 3-1 advantage with another goal in the 27th minute after the Indians weren’t able to clear the ball from deep in their half.
“The boys played hard and I give them credit for that,” Kodama said of his squad. “But we made some mistakes and [Pasadena] was able to take advantage.”
Burroughs made it a one-goal game with a score nine minutes into the second half. Gerlach initiated the play with a good pass to junior Ashot Veisyan, who scored on Monay. It was Veisyan’s team-leading 16th goal of the season.
Burroughs had a handful of scoring chances over the course of the next 25 minutes, but couldn’t cash in on any of them.
Things evened out on the field in the 72nd minute when Pasadena’s Vasquez was sent off with a red card. However, just three minutes later, Hildreth scored his second goal of the contest to give the Bulldogs a 4-2 cushion.
“We have to be able to come back from this,” Kodama said. “We have no choice.”