CdM plays loose

CORONA DEL MAR — The question lingered.

Even during a dominating 4-0 win for the Corona del Mar High boys' soccer team, the question lingered?

What was the question?

Just how good would this team be if it were at full strength and not missing any players who shifted to U.S. Soccer Development Academy teams or even one who turned pro?

It would be a dream team, a type of side that delivers a CIF championship.

Striker Mason Case, defender Jack Gorab, goalkeeper Connor Gaal and defender Greg Allen compete for the Rancho Santa Margarita Pateadores, who are traveling to a play a game in Arizona this weekend.

Midfielder Grady Howe, who also played last season for the Sea Kings, is on the Los Angeles Galaxy academy team. As academy players, they can't compete in high school due to U.S. Soccer Development Academy rules.

Jack McBean, a former CdM standout, signed a professional contract with the L.A. Galaxy as a sophomore. He would've been a junior this year at CdM. He's also on the U.S. national under-22 soccer team.

That's a lot of talent missing. But the Sea Kings aren't really concerned with that lingering question. They want to show how good they can be without them. They opened the CIF Southern Section Division 3 playoffs with a convincing win over visiting Don Lugo of Chino Thursday.

"It pisses me off a lot," CdM goalkeeper Armon Alaghband said of people talking about what might've been. "Everyone was saying, 'You guys are going to suck now without those players.' … They are really talented players and they are all my friends. But we have a really strong team. We have a lot of confidence. We want to close this thing out."

Alaghband posted his second straight shutout. He made a sensational save on a penalty shot during the second half. He said the save gave him more confidence. Taking over for the departed Gaal has motivated him as well.

"I wanted to prove people wrong," he said.

Conor Roche, who scored two goals against Don Lugo, had a different take on the Sea Kings' approach.

"We definitely would've had a lot more talent if they would've come out but we moved past that a while ago," Roche said. "We definitely have enough talent on the current team to win CIF."

CdM (10-6-3), the Pacific Coast League champion, showed its talent against the outmatched Conquistadores (12-7-2). Roche and Max Premer scored a goal each in the first half, as the Sea Kings built a 2-0 lead within the game's first 15 minutes.

Connor Morrill assisted on Premer's goal.

CdM Coach George Larsen was definitely pleased. Thursday was Roche's first game back after missing the past two weeks with a knee injury. Roche hadn't practiced in the past two weeks too.

He wasn't the only Sea King making a return. Jack Nowack had missed two weeks with a hip injury and made his return against Don Lugo. He scored CdM's final goal.

Roche opened the second half with a goal off a rebound.

"My goodness," Don Lugo Coach Ralph Esposito said after being told CdM could've had five players, but they compete on academy teams. "Hey, those kids can't play. If they would have had those kids they would definitely go all the way. They have to do with what they have. But with what they have they have good chance to go pretty far."

Esposito said the Sea Kings moved the ball well throughout the game. Corona del Mar will try to stay in sync in the second round when it plays against Fontana (20-1-1) Tuesday at a site to be determined by a coin flip. Fontana beat Lompoc, 3-0, Thursday.

Larsen has told his players to enjoy each moment in the playoffs, calling the postseason a bonus after winning the PCL.

"We've overachieved at this point," Larsen said. "We're kind of just taking CIF one game at a time and we're having fun with it. We're not really having any pressure."

Twitter: @SteveVirgen

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