Different CdM team ties rival Newport

CORONA DEL MAR — George Larsen missed Corona del Mar High's opener last week because of an academy commitment in Florida.

On Wednesday, he returned to the sideline at CdM to a completely different boys' soccer team than the one he coached a year ago.

Some of his former stars, Mason Case, Jack Gorab, Connor Gaal and Greg Allen, even Jack McBean, the player who signed a pro contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy after playing one match as a sophomore last season, showed up to support Larsen and CdM.

Larsen sure could have used the teenagers in street clothes against Newport Harbor.

Larsen said Case, Gorab, Gaal and Allen aren't available for their senior season because they decided to play with their academy team, the Mission Viejo Pateadores, which Larsen coaches. McBean is no longer eligible to play on the high school level, well, because he's a pro now.

"It's a rebuilding year," Larsen said with a smile before the match.

The last time CdM and Sailors met in the Battle of the Bay was last year. The Sea Kings thumped the Sailors, 4-0.

The outcome wasn't the same this time around, as Newport Harbor tied CdM, 1-1.

The Sailors are unbeaten in their first three matches of the young season, starting 1-0-2.

Two matches into the season, the Sea Kings are winless. In the past two years, CdM lost a combined four matches.

The Sea Kings (0-1-1) are a different team in Larsen's third year in charge.

"It's a new chapter in CdM soccer," said Larsen, who led the program to the CIF Southern Section Division IV title and CIF Southern California Regional Division II title in his first season, then the semifinals of the section playoffs in his second season.

"We have a lot of new faces. We got younger."

Helping the Sea Kings' cause early on against the Sailors was a young player.

Max Premer, a sophomore, scored a goal two minutes into the match.

Another CdM opportunity was created by a senior, Jake Maxwell, with the help of a defender. The defender took down Maxwell in the box and the Sea Kings earned a penalty kick in the 16th minute.

Newport Harbor goalie Rudy Reyes kept it a one-goal match. He dove to his left and stopped Connor Roche's PK.

The rest of the match featured sloppy play and many fouls.

The biggest mistake committed by CdM resulted in Newport Harbor tying the match three minutes into the second half.

Christian Ochoa, like had done midway through the first half, used his body to control the ball in the box. Then the striker went down as a defender dropped him, giving the Sailors a penalty kick.

A minute after Ochoa rose to his feet, he blessed himself. Then he blessed the back of the net.

Ochoa beat the keeper, tying the match at 1-1. Newport Harbor and CdM played even for the final 37 minutes.

The Sailors will gladly take the tie, especially after dropping the annual match against CdM the past two years.

With the Sea Kings losing standouts to the Pateadores, Newport Harbor appears to have closed the gap for the best program in the Back Bay.

Juan Mares, in his second year as coach of the Sailors, has a couple of talented freshmen midfielders in Jose Garfias and Alan Alcantara. Mares expects the two contribute after the program lost midfielder Caleb Candelaria to an academy team, the Irvine Strikers.

"It was tough," Mares said of losing Candelaria, a first-team All-Sunset League performer last year. "But it benefits us in the sense that we don't look just at one player. Last year, we looked at him to dig us out of a hole. This year, we're a little bit more balanced."

Larsen is looking for some stability at CdM. The Sea Kings have had it before this season, with Case, Gorab, Gaal and Allen contributing.

"I'm sure it was killing them not to be in, especially the Battle of the Bay," said Larsen, adding that Case and Gorab have each committed to play soccer at Brown University, Gaal at the University of San Francisco and Allen at Carnegie Mellon University. "Our [Pateadores] team got invited to play in the academy this year and in doing so it takes you out of eligibility for high school soccer. It's a new rule mandated by U.S. Soccer. Based on the 10-month schedule that the academy now plays, they didn't allow the boys to play.

"For them, the academy is where the top teams and top players in the United States play. It is a reward for them to get to play at that level. For those four boys, they're still developing at the highest level, getting ready for college soccer, and they made way for some of these new guys and young guys to come in and get this experience."


Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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