LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — It wasn’t the closest look at the goal that the Glendale High boys’ soccer team had gotten all night, but certainly one of the longest.
Richard Anaya had an extra second or two to measure every inch of a 35-yard laser into the upper right corner of the net on Friday night after finding himself momentarily unmarked late in the second half of a tied pool-play game of the Ralph Brandt Tournament on Saturday night at St. Francis High.
His goal in the 75th minute propelled the Nitros to a 2-1 victory and a spot in the championship bracket of the tournament to begin on Friday, while the Golden Knights, who needed only a tie on Saturday to win Group 7 and advance, dropped to the consolation playoffs.
“I had no one in front of me,” Anaya said. “I said, ‘Might as well take the opportunity and hopefully it goes in.’
“Unexpectedly, we got that goal. [It was] a lot of effort, pressure that got us the win, as a team.”
Glendale held it’s own with the defending CIF Southern California Regional champions, who entered the contest ranked third in Division I, taking an early lead in the first half on a header goal by junior defender Emin Mitzalhani off a corner kick assisted by Levon Sargsyan.
“We talked earlier about just staying within our game and playing our game,” said Nitros Coach Tulio Marroquin, whose team improved to 3-0-1 and 2-0 in tournament play. “[The Golden Knights] are a really good team, they’re champions from last year, so it was a good accomplishment for [the Nitros], but we’re just trying to build on everything we’ve been working on since summer. They’re continuing to improve, so that’s what’s important to me right now.”
St. Francis (1-1) tied the game in the 25th minute on a goal by junior forward Christian Swart, but Golden Knights Coach Glen Appels lamented too many missed opportunities in the first half.
“In the first half, we had five or six chances that we didn’t finish and a couple balls that we didn’t put away,” Appels said. “That’s what comes back to haunt you when you get hit with a bolt of lightning like [Anaya] had and you wind up losing.”
Both teams combined for just six total shots in the second half, although St. Francis’ two were on goal. Kian Chachi had a 65th-minute shot stopped by Nitros goalkeeper James Mizuki, who also blocked a bullet by Dante Ramunno with less than 10 minutes to play.
Following Anaya’s goal, St. Francis had two throw ins near the goal and a corner kick within the last two minutes of injury time, but couldn’t get the tying goal.
“We really had the run of play for most of the game,” Appels said. “We just were not good at finishing. They played really hard, Glendale did, they were disruptive, lot of restarts from fouls, it took the flow out of the game a little bit and I think it worked in their favor.”
Get in touch GABRIEL RIZK covers sports. He can be reached at (818) 637-3226 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.