LA CAÑADA — La Cañada boys’ soccer coach Bruno Costa decided to be a little risky Saturday.
His Spartans team was facing their neighborhood rival, Flintridge Prep, in the third-place match of the La Cañada Tournament. With a shortage of players due to numerous reasons, Costa chose to play a bit more conservative after a strange series of events unfolded in the first half..
After the Rebels pulled ahead in the 12th minute, the Spartans had a 31st-minute penalty kick saved, then had a player sent off in the 37th minute.
Behind the duo of J.P. Cristi and Marcus Chimielewski, La Cañada rallied in the second half to defeat Flintridge Prep 3-1.
“I had to gamble,” Costa said. “For the first 15 minutes, I decided not to push hard, but once I realized that I had to go after that, I took away a defender and we went full force.
“Once we got our goals, again another gamble: moving back the team, resetting the formation, being conservative and waiting for the counter. Today, it worked out, thankfully. I’m glad and with the spirit of the players coming back against a team with 10 players, against a rival, I think we can take a lot out of this.”
La Cañada tied the score at 1 in the 60th minute, before a pair of goals from Chmielewski in the 66th and 74th minutes clinched the win.
“I think it didn’t really affect us,” Costa said on the one-man disadvantage. “The rivalry factor kicked in. You’re losing at home the last game of the [calendar] year, your tournament, against the school across the street, you forget. They’re going to be tired now. They’re going to be fatigued. But during the game, no.”
The Rebels had many of their chances in the early stages of the match, starting with a pair of shots from Andrew Odom and Spencer Harris that tested Spartans goalkeeper Leone Voskanian.
Flintridge Prep took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Dylan McGraham.
“We changed the formation to hopefully overload the midfield,” Flintridge Prep co-coach Stanley Curiel said. “I think our intensity was just not there, and La Cañada’s intensity overpowered us. That’s what it came down to: intensity and who wanted it more, and they showed that with 10 men and with their intensity that they wanted the match more.
“It’s a disappointment, but we’ll learn and grow from this and just move forward.”
La Cañada finally strung together a few good chances before Crispi drew a foul inside the penalty box. However, his shot was blocked by Rebels goalkeeper Gabe Wallen in the 31st minute to maintain the lead.
The Spartans came out to the second half with a free-kick opportunity that saw senior defender Daniel Landesman head toward the goal post.
In the 58th minute, Chmieleski beat Wallen on a one-on-one opportunity and took a shot at the open net, but Rebels defender Jason Krienberg made a last-second tackle to protect his side’s 1-0 lead.
Crispi had his redemption moment in the 60th minute as Chmielewski laid off a pass to the junior midfielder who took a shot from outside the penalty area for the equalizer.
Six minutes later, the winger dribbled down the right side and sent a cross into Chmielewski, who headed in the go-ahead goal.
“I feel like we played better with 10 men, honestly, we came together [as a team] and played better,” Crispi said. “I was just trying to forget about the penalty and move on and help the team win.”
Chmielewski wrapped up the scoring off an assist from Will Chant.