LA CRESCENTA — Several story lines were prevalent during Friday's Pacific League boys' soccer match between Crescenta Valley High and Burbank.
Crescenta Valley looked to remain unbeaten in league despite having to play with two of its starters serving mandatory one-match suspensions, while Burbank had an opportunity to take advantage of those absences and climb in the standings.
Blocking out the windy weather and personnel distractions, Crescenta Valley managed to record a 4-0 home victory and move the Falcons a step closer to their third league championship in a row.
Alex Berger recorded one goal and two assists for the Falcons, who improved to 12-0-6, 9-0-2 in league for 29 points despite competing without forward Pavle Atanackovic and midfielder Michael Shahnazarians. Atanackovic, the reigning All-Area Boys' Player of the Year, and Shahnazarians were assessed red cards during Wednesday's match against Burroughs and served their suspensions Friday.
"It was a case where everybody had to work hard and we pretty much played a good game," Berger said. "With the winds, we had to keep the ball on the ground and go from there.
"Everybody had to step up. We want to win and go undefeated in league."
Burbank (4-5-2, 3-5-2 for 11 points) played fairly even with Crescenta Valley before the Falcons scored twice in the final five minutes of the first half to take a 2-0 advantage. The Bulldogs, who tied Crescenta Valley, 2-2, in the teams' first meeting at Burbank, had their best scoring chance come in the 22nd minute, but a shot by Dennis Palacio rolled wide of the right post.
In the 35th minute, Burbank defender Josue Lira dragged down Crescenta Valley's Erick Trejo inside the goal box. The Falcons were awarded a penalty shot, which Salar Hajimirsadeghi converted to make it 1-0.
With the steady winds blowing, Hajimirsadeghi twice had to retrieve the ball before taking the penalty shot.
Crescenta Valley made it 2-0 on a goal by Berger off an assist from Trejo in the 37th minute.
"We played all right," said Burbank Coach Loi Phan, whose team is in fifth place, three points behind rival Burroughs and Arcadia. "We made a couple of mistakes in the last five or six minutes of the first half.
"One mistake and it was all over. It doesn't matter that they were without those guys because they still have a good team. Sometimes teams can play even better when they don't have their best players.
"We now have a few [league] games left. We still have a shot at making the playoffs."
The Falcons, ranked No. 5 in the latest CIF Southern Section Division IV poll, extended their lead to 3-0 on a goal by Rani Dimashki in the 42nd minute. Berger picked up an assist and then assisted on a goal by Russell Carpenter to complete the scoring with 30 seconds left.
Crescenta Valley Coach Grant Clark said the Falcons needed to overcome adversity and avoid a letdown.
"We do have a lot of experience, so that helps," said Clark, who got five saves from senior goalkeeper Nick Ruiz. "We've been through a lot and we had confidence with the guys who we did have playing.
"When you are missing guys like Pavle and Michael, you really can't replace them. We had everybody in there step it up. We remembered from the first time that we played Burbank that they got us on some set plays. So, we wanted to prevent them from happening."
Burbank senior goalkeeper Ryan Tiegs finished with seven saves. Tiegs' best two saves came in the first half. He stopped Pablo Sotillo on a close-up shot in the eighth minute and then tipped a 20-yard shot by Berger over the crossbar in the 20th minute.
Crescenta Valley and Burbank will next take part in league games Tuesday. Crescenta Valley will meet visiting Hoover and Burbank will take on host Glendale.