LA CRESCENTA — One team was beginning the defense of its reign atop the Pacific League, while the other is admittedly in the midst of a rebuilding season.
One team, with three returning All-CIF starters, entered with an unbeaten record, while the other limped in four losses under .500.
Thus, when both the Crescenta Valley High and Glendale boys' soccer teams walked away from Tuesday's league opener with the same result, it was easy to figure out who was pleased with the 1-1 stalemate and who was disappointed.
"It's a very young team, but they hung in there," said veteran Glendale Coach Tulio Marroquin, whose Nitros (1-5-2) rallied to tie when Artur Nazarian scored with just under three minutes remaining to even the match. "It was a good tie for the boys."
But for the Falcons (4-0-5), who were missing four starters early in the game, it was hardly a result or an effort to be pleased with.
"It's just not good enough and I'm not trying to put down Glendale, but with three All-CIF starters and mostly the same team returning, it's not good enough for us," said first-year CV Coach Grant Clark, whose Falcons won their second consecutive league title last year with an unbeaten league mark before advancing to the CIF Southern Section Division IV quarterfinals for the first time in program history.
Senior Pavle Atanackovic, the reigning All-Area Boys' Soccer Player of the Year, headed in a beautiful pass from Alex Berger with just over 17 minutes remaining to give the Falcons a 1-0 lead. Berger lofted a pass to the far side of the field where Atanackovic out jumped the defense and headed in the score.
Despite that tally and the Falcons largely controlling the tempo and run of play, Clark was none too pleased with the team's effort overall, as the Falcons often seemed listless. And, while Clark admitted he would have been disappointed even with a 1-0 win, much less the tie that ended up playing out, the Nitros could've easily taken home the victory, as Nazarian was awarded a penalty kick. Nazarian's shot was high and just over the frame, though, with 21 minutes left in the match.
"I want to see more intensity," Clark said. "They didn't turn on the switch until [the Nitros] missed that penalty kick."
Glendale goalie Ariz Yeghiazaryan also did his fair share to stave off the Falcons, notching 10 saves, including a few that were borderline spectacular, while also doing all that he could with aggressive play around the net.
"Awesome," said Marroquin of his keeper's play. "I think my goalie is probably the best in the league.
"He basically kept us in the game. He always comes up big when he needs to."
Yeghiazaryan made three saves in the final two minutes after the Nitros had tied the match when Nazarian popped a shot over Falcons keeper Nick Ruiz' outstretched reach and just under the crossbar.
Ruiz, who made three saves, was one of four Falcons starters that sat out the game's onset due to missing practice. Atanackovic and Berger, two of the aforementioned All-CIF returners, and Tim Campbell were also disciplined.
"You have to enforce the rules," Clark said. "There was obviously something missing at the beginning."
Still, Crescenta Valley had its share of chances with 15 shots, while Glendale had eight.
"We kept their attack down pretty well," said Clark of the Matthew Bracht-led defense.
And, Yeghiazaryan and some good fortune helped keep the Falcons down.
Berger, not long after setting up the first goal, played a ball up in the air to Atanackovic. Yeghiazaryan raced out and went airborne, as well, but the ball was deflected backward and to the Falcons' Erick Trejo, who had a shot on an empty net go just right of the frame.
"I thought that was the one that was going to give us some separation," Clark said.
And then there were three that followed Nazarian's goal, including a point-blank save on a shot by Salar Hajimirsadeghi, also an All-CIF returner, that Yeghiazaryan, who earlier also made a great diving save against Michael Shahnazarians that even had the Falcons fans applauding, blocked.
Now, Glendale moves forward with a match on Friday at Arcadia, knowing it can, at the very least, hang with the league champs.
"We've been talking about playing a full game all year," Marroquin said. "Because they played a full game, even though it wasn't pretty, they were able to capitalize.
"They got in a nice goal and we responded."
Which is something the Falcons are looking to do against Burbank on Friday.