Costa Mesa, Estancia play to scoreless tie in first Battle for the Bell boys’ soccer match
The Costa Mesa and Estancia boys’ soccer teams have not had the seasons they might have hoped for just yet, but there is still time to turn their fortunes around.
The crosstown rivals squared off in an early Orange Coast League match on Friday at Costa Mesa High, and with a seventh team joining the league this season, each has a hunger to secure one of the four automatic postseason berths.
Neither side hurt its chances, as the rivals played to a scoreless tie in the first meeting between the Battle for the Bell rivals this season.
“It’s a great result to start the league,” Costa Mesa coach Santiago Guzman said. “It was a hard game. I told the boys, ‘We need to go hard on these guys,’ and they did. They did what they had to do. Both teams had a couple chances to score. … Both teams played hard.”
Each side may have seen their best opportunities to break the deadlock late in the first half.
Costa Mesa (1-9-3, 0-0-1 in the Orange Coast League), which at times was given a wide berth to dribble the ball on the wings, activated right back Miguel Reyes offensively, and he played the role of the playmaker in the 34th minute. Reyes’ pass found Carlos Alcala near the top of the box. The freshman turned and took the shot, hitting the crossbar of the uprights behind the goal.
Three minutes later, Estancia senior goalkeeper Cesar Pedroza launched a goal kick beyond midfield, which freshman forward Christian Gomez appeared to run onto before being ruled offsides.
“He looked super onside,” Estancia coach Robert Castellano said. “He timed it like we talked about it — to time their runs with Cesar. ... He did it perfectly, and I didn’t think he was offsides, but we should have put our chances away in the first half, and it would be a different game.”
In the 39th minute, Estancia (2-3-2, 1-0-1) countered, as senior forward Brandon Garcia played a touch past Costa Mesa goalkeeper Ethan Smithlin, who had come out aggressively to take away time and space for the offensive.
Before Garcia could retrieve the ball in behind Smithlin, center back Aidan Markert made a sliding tackle to prevent him from playing the ball into the vacated net.
The Eagles stuck with the play. Gomez ran onto the clearing attempt, and with Smithlin still out of the net, he lifted the ball back towards the goal. It struck the crossbar and stayed out.
“They were organized,” Castellano said. “They made it hard. They made it very, very tough for us. A lot of respect to them because I was impressed. We have a couple injuries. We got to get healthy and then get ready for the next time we play them [on Jan. 18 at Jim Scott Stadium].
“We knew it was going to be an intense game because it doesn’t matter what the records are. It’s always going to be very, very tight, very intense.”
Castellano added that he was pleased with the play of his team’s center backs in freshman Gabe Johner and senior Kevin Arevalo.
Smithlin made two saves in recording the shutout for Costa Mesa, while Pedroza was forced to make one stop to keep the clean sheet for Estancia.
Costa Mesa opted to take a direct approach with a couple of late free kicks, missing the mark both times.
“I let my players make decisions on the pitch,” Guzman said. “That’s how they’re going to learn. I told them, ‘Hey, if you think you can make it, go for it.’ There were two unlucky free kicks that we could have done something better, but at the end of the day, the decision to make, it was the right one.”
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