Burroughs boys' soccer surges back to top of league

ARCADIA — Last time out in a Pacific League boys' soccer first-place showdown with Pasadena High, the Burroughs boys' soccer team found itself a man down in the first minute and the Indians had their first league loss.

However, just before the start of its road game against Arcadia, Burroughs got a reprieve. Word got around that Pasadena had been beaten by Crescenta Valley earlier on Friday, meaning the Indians would reclaim a share of the top spot in the Pacific with a win over the Apaches.

"We came into [the game against Arcadia] more angry than any type of desperation," Burroughs senior Brendon Gerlach said. "After we heard CV had won, it definitely gave us a little more motivation."

The Indians saw their halftime lead disappear, but did not squander the opportunity to get back on top of the Pacific. It was Gerlach who scored the eventual game-winner in Burroughs' 2-1 victory over Arcadia to return to the top of the standings with Pasadena.

"It was a fantastic game. Great effort by the guys to come back," Burroughs Coach Mike Kodama said. "It was an outstanding goal by Gerlach [off a] great ball by Andres."

Burroughs (14-3-4, 9-1-2) reclaimed the lead in the 53rd minute when Gerlach used his head to put in a free kick struck by Andres Aguilar from about 23 yards out on the right side. Aguilar sent the ball in the air, while keeping it low, into the box, where Gerlach dove with his body parallel to the ground just inches off the turf to head the ball into the back of the net, despite Apache center back Harrison Ma barreling down on him.

"My intention was to flick it back post. I got a little more on it than I thought I would, which is why it went in," Gerlach said.

The Indians had taken a 1-0 advantage into halftime thanks to an Ashot Veisyan goal, only to see Arcadia (9-9-3, 5-6-1) get the equalizer four minutes into the second half on a high-quality goal by Oscar Chen.

Veisyan, who had scored twice in his team's 3-0 victory over Arcadia earlier this season, scored the first goal of Friday's contest in the 33rd minute for the junior's team-high 17th goal of the season.

The goal came when the Indians were awarded a penalty kick after Veisyan was clobbered by Ma from behind deep in the box.

"Someone crossed [the ball] to me and I took the ball down with my chest," Veisyan said through teammate Jack Zakaryan, who served as his interpreter. "As I was going to make a move they hit me down, after which I couldn't feel my legs."

Indian Nolberto Alcantar took the shot, but Apaches keeper Elmasri Yusuf went down to his left to make the save. However, the ball stayed in play, allowing Veisyan to score off the rebound.

Both Burroughs goal scorers paid a physical price for their efforts. Veisyan, who in the waning minutes would also be taken down hard in the box but this time did not draw a call, absorbed the blow from Ma to set up the first score. Gerlach took a cleating to his wrist that left a sizable contusion from Ma as he notched his second-half goal, but the Indians were undeterred by the physical play.

"We are prepared for these kind of physical games," Veisyan said through Zakaryan. "I'm doing whatever I can to be as physical as I can in a way. I'm always prepared for a physical game just as is the rest of the team."

The Apaches, who are tied for fourth with Muir, stayed on the offensive throughout, but Chen's goal in the 44th minute was all they got to show for it.

"Our defense had to stand strong today," Kodama said.

On the play, Chen dribbled the ball through a Burroughs defender's legs before cutting inside to give himself space to hammer home the short-lived equalizer.

"It came down to who had the most composure," Gerlach said. "Whoever could keep the ball in longer and work the ball in the middle up to the top is the team that was going to win."

The win means Burroughs is now tied atop the league standings deadlocked with the Bulldogs at 29 points, and four points ahead of the third-place Falcons, with two games to go.

"That's our goal," Kodama said of the chance to defend the Indians' league title from last year. "We're close."

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