SOUTHEAST GLENDALE — At home nursing a cold when the match began, sophomore goalkeeper Aris Yeghiazaryan didn't initially figure into the game plan for the Glendale High boys' soccer team's CIF Southern Section Division IV wild-card match against Culver City at Moyse Field on Wednesday.
That all changed in a heartbeat when Nitros starting goalkeeper James Mizuki injured his ankle early in the first half, sending Glendale Coach Tulio Marroquin scrambling for his cell phone.
Yeghiazaryan arrived in time to take over in net in the first half and went from understudy to center stage in the riveting final act of the Nitros' 2-2 (5-4) win, making three huge saves, including the game-clincher directly on the heels of Michael Kopooshian's penalty kick that gave Glendale a 5-4 lead in the shootout.
"I wasn't nervous, I just had it in me and I knew I was going to block it," Yeghiazaryan said of his final stop of a low-left shot by the Centaurs' Chris Echeverria. "One block and we were gonna win."
Culver City (8-14-2) took an immediate advantage in the shootout when Rick Espinosa's opening attempt was smothered by the Centaurs' Edgar Castillo. But the Nitros (11-2-8) kept pace thereafter and tied the shootout at 3-3 on a successful attempt by Alan Ghazarians, whose two second-half goals erased a 2-0 halftime deficit.
Christian Campos of Culver City had Yeghiazaryan badly beat on the next shot, but it went too far to the right and ricocheted off the post. The next five total attempts were saved, with Yeghiazaryan stopping a pair of shots and Castillo answering with three straight saves of his own.
But Jon Prestridge then overshot the goal by a good six feet with a chance to give Culver City the lead and the Nitros finally capitalized, going up, 4-3, on Mauricio Medina's shot down the middle.
"It took [all of] the boys to finally get us back in the game in the second half," said Marroquin, whose team will face host Bonita in the first round on Friday. "Alan was able to help us with the goals and tie the game and then PKs is just something I absolutely hate because it could be anyone's game at that point.
"We knew Aris had it. He's made big saves for us against Muir and Pasadena. He's done it before, he guesses right. I knew he was going to be able to stop one or two, I didn't know he was going to stop that many."
With the wind at its back in the first half, Culver City was able to get out to a 2-0 lead on a pair of tallies by Julien Prestridge. Glendale picked things up in the second half, though, outshooting the Centaurs, 8-2, and generally dominating play.
But still the Nitros trailed, 2-0, into the 68th minute, where a Glendale corner kick resulted in a Culver City hand ball in the box and a successful penalty kick for Ghazarians.
Near the onset of injury time, Glendale tied the game when Ghazarians played a ball in the air to Andre Anderiasian, who headed it back to Ghazarians for an open 15-yard shot drilled into the lower left corner.
In the first of two sudden-death overtime periods, Glendale's momentum carried right over into a 5-1 shot disparity, but no winning goal, just as a 4-1 shot advantage in the second overtime couldn't avert the shootout.
"Aris had his day today," Marroquin said. "He came from being home sick to help us out and get this win."