Defense paves way for Falcons

LA CRESCENTA — A quality defensive effort, coupled with another goal-scoring display from its top offensive threat kept the Crescenta Valley High boys' soccer team comfortably in first place.

It's the combination the Falcons have been perfecting as of late in their quest to win the Pacific League championship for the second straight season.

Crescenta Valley moved a step closer to repeating as league champions Tuesday afternoon, as Pavle Atanackovic scored a pair of goals to spark the host Falcons to a 2-0 league victory.

The Falcons (10-2-5, 8-0-3 in league for 27 points) picked up their second shutout in a row. They own a four-point lead over second-place Burroughs, which improved to 7-2-2 in league for 23 points after its 6-0 home league victory against Glendale on Tuesday.

"We've been focusing on our defense and preparing for different kinds of rotations," said Crescenta Valley second-year Coach Kiel McClung, whose team won its fifth straight match. "That's the key for us because strong defense can create chances for us offensively.

"We are getting closer to league, but we can only focus on our next game."

The defensive unit of Reilly Solis, Matthew Bracht, Matt Schmutzer and Chris Fierro limited Muir (9-5-7, 5-3-3 in league for 18 points) to five shots. The Mustangs remained in fourth place.

Atanackovic scored in the 19th minute to give the Falcons a 1-0 lead. He then capped the scoring in the 59th minute, raising his goal total to a team-best 23.

Field position meant everything to Atanackovic, a junior forward.

On the first goal, Atanackovic got behind a Muir defender and headed in a pass from Salar Hajimirsadeghi past Muir goalkeeper Miguel Magana. Atanackovic then corralled a nice pass from Schmutzer and scored into the empty net to give the Falcons some breathing room.

"I saw them at the beginning of the game trying to use an offside trap," said Atanackovic, a reigning All-Area honoree. "I saw that the goalie was coming out on both of my goals.

"Our defense stepped it up for the second straight time. We try not to focus on the other team. We just have to focus on ourselves and that will help us try to win league."

Goalkeeper Nick Ruiz finished with four saves for the Falcons, who will next face Pasadena in a league road match at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

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