CORONA DEL MAR — At one end of the Corona del Mar High boys’ soccer bench, Reed Williams stood and stretched out his right injured hamstring. On the other side, Brian Ford sat down and rubbed his sore right ankle.
The Sea Kings looked beat. They were unbeatable, until Friday.
First-year CdM Coach George Larsen figured this day would come. For the seventh-ranked team in the nation by ESPN RISE, the Sea Kings picked a wrong time to drop their first match of the season.
Injuries caught up to CdM in a Pacific Coast League showdown with University. The defending league champion Trojans ended the Sea Kings’ 13-match unbeaten streak with a 1-0 road victory in overtime.
The loss stung CdM (12-1-1, 1-1-1 in league), which at times played without as many as five starters. One of those players was Williams.
The UCLA-bound senior missed his fifth straight match. The Trojans weren’t surprised Williams wasn’t able to play.
They delivered the real stunner late in the second five-minute overtime period.
Both sides played even, until University’s Austin Tabor tapped in the game-winner in the 88th minute with his left foot. The opportunity began on a short corner and it resulted in what Larsen called a “fluky” goal deep in the box.
In the most physical match of the season for both teams, University will take the luck. The Trojans are in first place in league at 2-0.
“These overtime games, they kill,” said University Coach Chip Fuller, whose team is 7-4-2 overall. “[That] somebody has to lose a game like that is really tough.
“It’s going to be a much harder-fought game, even next time we play [host to CdM on Feb. 3]. I don’t know [how] it can be much harder, but we’re going to be ready for it.”
The Sea Kings, ranked No. 1 in the CIF Southern Section Division IV coaches’ poll, are more concerned with their health than getting revenge.
Larsen said he’s unsure if Williams will be available next week, when CdM plays San Juan Hills and Beckman in league. He’s hoping the expected rain next week cancels both matches because other players are hurting as well.
Larsen can’t afford to lose more starters to injuries. Already gone for the season are Mason Case (fractured back) and Elliott Waniek (dislocated knee).
Ford aggravated an ankle injury he suffered last month. Thirteen minutes into Friday’s match, a defender tackled Ford near the Corona del Mar sideline. The junior appeared to be OK for a minute and then he began to hobble near midfield.
Ford wanted out of the match so badly that he sat down on the field, hoping to stop the match. The Sea Kings were able to substitute for the attacking midfielder.
In the final 26 minutes of the first half, Ford took a seat. He and the rest of the Sea Kings watched University goalkeeper Federico Antonelli make eight saves in the shutout.
With Ford and Williams unable to play together, the Sea Kings’ attack showed no signs of the one that produced 34 goals in the first nine matches of the season.
“He’s itching [to return],” Larsen said of Williams, who leads the team with 19 goals. “The way I got to look at it, if we have to sacrifice league at some point to try and get ourselves healthy and make a run at the playoffs, then that’s what we have to do.”
CdM also played without Jack McBean, another starting striker. Larsen said the freshman is at the U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program Region IV Championships, which begin today in Phoenix, Ariz.
“I thought it was incredibly courageous of the boys with the status of our team that they were able to hang in there so long,” said Larsen, whose defense, with Jack Gorab, Greg Allen and goalkeeper Connor Gaal, turned in a strong performance. “By no means were we huffing and puffing because of our record we were bringing into the game. We knew that we were going to be the underdogs.
“It was our first loss, but in some ways I don’t really have any negative things to say about it.”