SOUTHEAST GLENDALE — A bounce-back game in more than one sense, the Glendale High boys' soccer team had to not only rebound from a humbling loss — its first of the season — but also rally from a halftime deficit in a Pacific League contest against Muir on Friday afternoon.
Senior midfielder Rick Espinosa scored the final two goals of the game, including the go-ahead tally in the 66th minute, to power the Nitros to a 3-1 win at Moyse Field and bring the team one step closer to clinching at least third place in league and one of four automatic playoff bids.
"The game was kind of difficult, our team kept attacking and we kept knocking on the door," said Espinosa, whose team was coming off a 6-0 league loss to second-place Burroughs on Tuesday and held a two-point lead over the fourth-place Mustangs in the league standings at the start of play. "It was just a matter of time before we got it in and scored. First half, we kept missing opportunities, it was kind of hard."
Glendale (9-1-7, 6-1-5 in league) began to turn the tide in the 45th minute with a game-tying goal by Kelby Hernandez, who got a ball in the goal box on a free kick from Levon Sargsyan, had a close shot stopped by Muir goalkeeper Miguel Magana and poked in a rebound that came directly back to him.
Espinosa gave the Nitros their first lead of the match, crashing the box to play a cross from the right side by Eddy Torres. Espinosa would give Glendale a two-goal cushion several minutes later on a similar play set up by Sargsyan.
"That loss [to Burroughs] was difficult because it was our first one in 16 or 17 games and we're not used to that," Espinosa said. "We're used to winning, tying, it doesn't matter, we were still undefeated. After that loss, I guess motivation just got to us and we just started playing harder and harder."
The Nitros outshot Muir (5-4-3 in league), 12-7, in the opening half, but, despite four shots on goal by Sargsyan and another by Alan Ghazarians, trailed, 1-0, at halftime after Muir's Victor Lugo scored off a rebound of teammate Jorge Castro's miss in the 24th minute.
"Them being two points behind us [at the start of the day] it's an important game for us so we can take the third seed instead of fourth," said Glendale Coach Tulio Marroquin, whose team plays first-place Crescenta Valley on Tuesday. "I talked to them about trying to focus on getting into CIF and trying to secure a better seed."
With two matches remaining, Glendale has 23 points, trailing Burroughs with a reported 26 points and first-place Crescenta Valley, with 30.