BURBANK — The Burroughs boys’ soccer team did all it could to defend its midfield in its CIF Southern Section Division III second-round playoff match Saturday against West Torrance at Memorial Field.
The teams battled to a scoreless draw at the end of regulation, but in the blink of an eye, a short Warriors free-kick thwarted 80 minutes of outstanding defensive play from the Indians.
In extra time, West Torrance sophomore Thomas Nakano mustered up a cannon of a shot toward Burroughs goalkeeper Tito Tejeda, which the senior stopped. The ball fell toward Warriors junior Andrew Kang, whose rebound goal proved to be the difference in overtime, as Burroughs fell, 1-0, in a heavily contested match.
“I’m not surprised that [Thomas Nakano] shot it. It was a solid strike,” Kang said. “I just thought the goalkeeper might not catch it and it bounced off him and fell right to me. I happened to be at the right place at the right time.”
After the Indians cleared n open-net opportunity from the Warriors in stoppage time, Burroughs maintained its composure to force West Torrance into extra time after a scoreless 80 minutes.
The Warriors opened extra time with a short free-kick in the 81st minute that Nakano took down the right wing for a shot-on-goal, before Kang knocked in the golden goal.
“I’m really proud of the boys,” Burroughs coach Mike Kodama said. “They left everything on the field and that’s all I’ll ever ask from them. Our work rate is outstanding. We played a really good team and had to make a series of adjustments on the fly as we go and we did that.
“We had guys step up today who hadn’t played much minutes because we had a couple of guys go down with injuries. Part of being at this level is when your number is called, you have to go play, and they did that. I have no regrets and I’m really proud of the way the boys played.”
Burroughs, which was ninth in the final division poll, finished 15-6-3 and won the Pacific League title.
Entering the match against West Torrance (No. 8 in the final poll), the Indians knew the size and stature of the Warriors would be an obstacle they needed to overcome. For much of the first half, the teams battled it out in the midfield for possession.
Chances came early one way, then the other, and it ultimately culminated in a 25th minute when Burroughs was given a free kick after junior David Gerlach was dragged down at the edge of the penalty area. Sophomore Manny Gonzalez took the spot-kick, but the shot was deflected out by the tip of the right foot of 6-foot-3 West Torrance goalkeeper Ethan Brandt.
“We knew that if you take a look at a physical standpoint, they’re going to play more direct than us,” Kodama said. “They’re going to be more physical. At the same time, we needed to keep the ball and get the ball on the ground and activate our midfield, so that’s the ebb-and-flow you saw.
“When we get the ball, we can touch and move, and then they would get the ball and pound away. They’re well-coached and they did a good job. They were probing and looking for their spots, too. That wasn’t anything expected in terms of the ebb-and-flow of the game.”
West Torrance (14-5-6; Pioneer League champion) had scoring chances in the first half, but as the second half went on, the Warriors looked more dangerous in the Burroughs third of the field.
“We were telling them that we had a lot of the possession, but we needed to get the ball to the spots where we can get the serve and where we can get the opportunities to play a bit quick,” West Torrance coach Mike Shimizu said. “That was the difference in our last minute. We played a quick ball and they weren’t quite ready for it.
“We wanted them to get the ball more dangerous and closer to the goal. If guys don’t follow that shot, it’s just a ball the goalkeeper picks again.”
The Warriors reign on possession continued and kept the Indians on their heels for much of the rest of the second half. The winning goal caught the Indians off guard.
“Things happen,” Burroughs senior midfielder Esteban Alcantar said. “It was a great four years under Kodama and I just want to thank him.