LA CAÑADA — Upon mounting pressure from the Flintridge Prep boys’ soccer team in the second half of the opening round of the La Cañada High Tournament on Wednesday, Glendale saw its two-goal lead cut in half with a Rebels penalty kick in the 57th minute.
The Rebels’ pressure threw off the Nitros for much of the second half as Flintridge Prep trailed by two goals at halftime, and a Silas Chaves penalty kick pulled the Rebels to within a goal.
But Glendale took back control when midfielder Vincente Sanchez found Nitros captain Ernesto Hernandez inside the penalty area, where the winger’s shot restored their two-goal lead.
The dagger proved to be a crucial one as a roaring Flintridge Prep side pulled one back four minutes later, but Glendale fended off the late rally to win the opener, 3-2, at La Cañada High.
“It was ugly,” Glendale coach Brandon Weisman said. “For us, it was a tale of two halves. First half was how we expected to play. For us, whoever’s not here or who is here, we expect to play a certain style and we did the first half.
“Second half, it completely went awry and, credit to Flintridge Prep because they converted to a 3-4-3 formation and it totally messed us up. Hats off to them. We have a lot to work on, we’re just happy to have another win for us in the column to try to get ready for Burroughs.”
A header from Flintridge Prep sophomore Will Gunter in the third minute of stoppage time solidified the final score.
Gunter, a sophomore, previously had a chance in the 78th minute to tie the game at 2, but the header soared over the crossbar.
A minute later after the Flintridge Prep chance, Hernandez made it a 3-1 Glendale (7-3-1) lead that ultimately sealed the contest.
“I’m just happy we got the [third] goal,” Hernandez said.” There was a chance at the other end where Flintridge Prep was really close to tying with us. But we just have to keep our mentality and be strong [and] trust our teammates.”
The Nitros held a 2-0 lead at halftime that Hernandez helped spark in the 21st minute. The captain’s low cross bounced off the fingertips of Rebels goalkeeper Gabe Wallen and was perfectly placed in front of Glendale junior Jose Flores, who knocked in the rebound for a 1-0 lead.
Although Glendale had more shots in the first half, Flintridge Prep (6-3-1) controlled much of the possession in the first 20 minutes and had chances to open the scoring, but none were as threatening as the Nitros’ opportunities.
“Overall, I think we’re lucky with the scoreline,” Flintridge Prep co-coach Stanley Curiel said. “Once again, same story, different day. Our second half was better than our first, and I think we just weren’t in the rhythm early enough. Towards the end, we put pressure on Glendale, but a small mishap, and that’s [game].”
Glendale sophomore Anri Sahakyan doubled the Nitros’ lead, 2-0, in the 34th minute as his cross was mishandled by Wallen and rolled into the back of the net.
The teams tried to separate each other in the early going of the second half, but the Nitros were still able to muster shots outside the box in the opening 10 minutes.
“We started playing extremely poorly,” Weisman said. “Our touch was off. Even though they went 3-4-3, I still had five guys in the middle. I didn’t feel like they were outnumbering us, I just felt like we played two games today. They definitely got us off our game.”
The Rebels quickly settled in and posted up around the Nitros’ penalty area before Chavez was fouled inside the box in the 56th minute that warranted a penalty kick. The sophomore drilled it down the middle a minute later to cut Glendale lead to 2-1.
“We just went three in the back, and [since] we were down, 2-0, at the half, my mentality was just to win the game; so we put three defenders in the back to try to overload offensively,” Curiel said. “Luckily, it went our way, but it was a tough Glendale backline.”
Weisman credited his team’s second-half defensive efforts on the backs of a few junior varsity players. One notable was Alex Asatryan, whose varsity debut stood out to the Glendale coach.
“I didn’t think about attacking at all [in the second half],” Asatryan said. “Just defending – parking the bus, basically. Even though they got two goals on us in the second half, we got one to top it off and we got the game.”