LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — Another game's worth of experience with a new defensive system and the offensive ingenuity of David Russell combined on Tuesday afternoon to get the Flintridge Prep boys' soccer team back into the win column.
Russell scored the game's first goal and then assisted on a Manny Perez tally that would stand as the game-winner in the Rebels' 2-1 triumph over Village Christian in a pool-play match of the La Cañada Tournament at La Cañada High.
"I'm very happy in terms of how we're progressing," said first-year Rebels Coach Fabrice Gautrat, whose team improved to 3-2-2. "Overall, I'm happy. It's a very coachable team."
The Rebels opened the tournament with a 3-1 loss to Golden Valley on Monday. The game served as the first for the Rebels while implementing a new defensive system, most notably featuring a sweeper.
For the most part on Tuesday, the Prep defense, keyed by the standout play of Jesse Redding and Eric Kazangian, bent but did not break other than Nick Parent's second-half goal for the Crusaders (0-5) that brought the match to its final score.
"Tactically they adjusted," said Gautrat in reference to his defense's play in comparison to Monday's match. "They responded better today and the work rate was much better."
Goalie Brian Heintz made three saves, as the Rebels outshot the Crusaders, 7-6.
The Rebels defense came up big, in particular in the second half.
While the first half had a very wide-open, back-and-forth feel filled with long passes and plenty of runs for both sides, the second half took on a stop-and-go feel with plenty of throw-ins, corner kicks and fouls called, resulting in myriad free kicks. The Crusaders got the majority of corners and free kicks, but the Rebels defended well, rarely giving a shot up.
"I think everybody was playing more aggressive in the second half," Russell said. "I think we pretty much cleared [the ball] every time or at least stopped them from getting a shot off."
In the first half, Prep had two good chances prior to Russell's goal.
Cole Rademacher was left unmarked right in front of the net, but had his point-blank shot stopped. Shortly thereafter, Perez sent a ball up to Russell, who got just enough of a touch in front of a defender to move the ball forward, where Roy Yu slid onto the scene, only to have the ball smothered by the Crusaders goalie.
In the 19th minute, off a pass from Jigar Patel, Russell made a run up the right side before attacking the net and booting in a 1-0 score.
"I got the ball and I noticed that their centerback wasn't covering, so I knew I had space, so I just took it and put it in," Russell said.
Russell ignited the Rebels' offense once again for a 2-0 lead in the second half.
"Not only is he a great player, a great one-on-one player, but … he's all about the team," Gautrat said of Russell. "I guess that overflows to the rest of team."
Patel once more found Russell on the right side. Russell then took the ball into the corner before dribbling around and past two defenders and ultimately spotting a wide-open Perez in the center of the field. Perez then drilled in a goal just four minutes into the second half.
"I saw a space and in the middle I saw Manny running in," Russell said.
Prep will look to keep up its winning ways with another pool-play matchup today at 5:30 p.m.