SOUTHEAST GLENDALE â€” Second-half challenges faced by the Glendale High boys' soccer team on Friday included yellow cards, an injury to its goalkeeper and rainy weather that didn't make it any easier to capitalize on several missed opportunities to pad a one-goal lead.
And, don't forget a determined Muir squad that became increasingly desperate in its attempts to erase that slim margin.
But none of that kept the Nitros from pulling out the biggest win of their season to date, a 1-0 triumph over the Mustangs at Moyse Field that kept their playoff and even Pacific League title hopes very much alive.
â€œWe needed to be able to stay in contention to get into the playoffs and this was one game that we definitely needed,â€ said Glendale Coach Tulio Marroquin, whose team entered the day with 12 points in league, trailing frontrunners Pasadena and Crescenta Valley with 15 and Burroughs and Burbank, who are tied for third with 14, for the league's fourth and final playoff spot. â€œWe can't really afford to lose at this point if we want to have a shot of getting in. I don't know how the other teams are doing, but we just have to focus on ourselves and try to take care of these next two games.â€
Those two matches come against Arcadia on Wednesday and Hoover on Friday. Both of those teams are already eliminated from the league playoff hunt, as was Muir (6-7-2, 4-7-1 in league) after Friday's loss.
â€œIt's such a tight race,â€ Glendale senior midfielder Artin Anderiasian said. â€œOur schedule is good. ...All the teams in the top four are playing each other [next week], so this is our chance to get our wins.â€
In Friday's game, which was moved from Muir to Glendale because of weather damage to the Mustangs' grass field, the only goal of the day came early and easily enough for the Nitros.
A high through ball from the midfield found sophomore forward Levon Sargsyan open in the attacking third and he buried a rifle shot from the left corner in the 13th minute.
But the bulk of the game's action came in Glendale's efforts to defend the narrow lead over the next 67 minutes.
Five of the Mustangs' 10 ensuing shot attempts were on goal, including a pair of free kicks from within 20 yards of the Nitros' net late in the first half.
The Nitros came up short on two big opportunities in the latter stages of the first half â€” on a bending blast by Haykaz Sargsyan that missed the upper left corner by inches and a one-on-one by Jose Gomez that was snuffed out by a Muir goalkeeper challenge â€” setting up another tight battle for the second.
â€œWe knew [the Mustangs] were gonna come with everything,â€ Marroquin said. â€œA one-goal lead nowadays is not enough. You have to give yourself a little room.â€
Try as they did to do just that, the Nitros (7-5-10, 4-2-6) continued to see good chances pass them by.
In the opening minute of the second half, a 10-yard free kick by Anderiasian was deflected by a leaping one-hand save and just two minutes later, a promising run by Sargsyan ended with a misfire.
â€œWe had a couple good opportunities that I think we should have capitalized on, but we didn't,â€ said Marroquin, whose team also missed a shot on an empty goal and had an apparent goal wiped off due to an offsides call in the second half. â€œOur defense did the job. ...I added another defender over the last 10 minutes and I think that helped us a little bit.â€
During one 25-minute span in the second half, which coincided with the heaviest rainfall of the match, Glendale picked up its second and third yellow cards of the game and saw goalkeeper James Mizuki go down with a knee injury when a Muir player slid into him on the ground.
Mizuki (five saves) did not return after being helped off the field in the 53rd minute, but was replaced capably by junior Osvaldo Florez, whose only save came on a 50-yard Muir free kick on the final play of the game.
â€œIt was hard,â€ Anderiasian said of the Nitros' second-half stand, â€œbut that's the way it is. That's soccer, that's the beauty of it.â€