LA CRESCENTA — Having stumbled a bit out of the gates in defense of its Pacific League title, the Crescenta Valley High boys' soccer team admittedly had Monday's match against Burroughs, last season's second-place finisher, circled on the calendar.
Whether it was the extra incentive or simply that everything finally came together at the right time, the Falcons — led by their All-CIF Southern Section trio of Pavle Atanackovic, Alex Berger and Salar Hajimirsadeghi — made an emphatic statement with a 7-0 drubbing of the visiting Indians.
"CV dominated the game," said Burroughs Coach Mike Kodama, whose Indians fell to 2-6-2, 1-1-1 in league. "Once they were able to finish, they poured it on.
"They played an outstanding game. ... They have players up top who can finish."
In particular, Atanackovic, the reigning All-Area Boys' Soccer Player of the Year, who had four goals, while Berger had a goal and three assists and Hajimirsadeghi had a goal and an assist.
"I think it's a really good score against a good team," said Atanackovic, who had two goals in each half. "Everything came together."
Ranked fifth in CIF Southern Section Division IV, the Falcons (5-0-6, 2-0-1) earned their first league victory after tying Glendale, 1-1, and Burbank, 2-2, to open league last week.
"We've had this date circled on the calendar," Falcons first-year Coach Grant Clark said. "[Burroughs] always gives us a tough time.
"It was just a different focus with the guys, they were ready to go."
At the onset, it was a back-and-forth match, with both squads going up and down the field and, at one point, sharing four shots apiece. But at the end of the game, Crescenta Valley held an overwhelming 22-6 shot advantage.
A Hajimirsadeghi steal turned the tides, as he broke loose on the right wing, got space on his mark and shot low inside the far post for a 1-0 lead with just under 12 minutes gone.
Seconds later, though, Burroughs responded with arguably its best chance of the game, when Alex Avelar-Escalante took a cross and headed the ball on net. But Falcons goalie Nick Ruiz was perfectly placed to make one of his four saves in the shutout.
Roughly nine minutes after CV's first tally, Michael Shahnazarians played a beautiful ball up to Berger, who beat his mark — once again up the right side, and made a low shot through the grasp of the keeper for a 2-0 lead. It was then that the Falcons began to turn it into a rout.
"They picked us apart," Kodama said. "Once they figured out where they could take advantage of us they did. They picked on our outside backs."
Though the Falcons had been beating the Indians wide all game, Atanackovic got in on the scoring when Berger worked the ball up the heart of the field. He passed up to Atanackovic, who then got a step on his defender and buried a left-footed shot into the center of the net with nine minutes to play in the half.
Roughly 90 seconds later, he scored again after getting behind his defender and taking a pass from Hajimirsadeghi and going low on his shot inside the far post.
Atanackovic recorded a natural hat trick when he scored the next goal in the 62nd minute off a throw-in by Erick Trejo. The score was likely his most impressive, as he took the pass roughly 20 yards from the goal with two defenders marking him tightly. During a 10-second sequence, he maneuvered his way past both defenders to work for a one-on-one with the goalie before scoring on a point-blank low shot.
"One of our goals was to get the ball to Pavle's feet more," Clark said. "He stepped up big today."
Pablo Sotillo scored off a pass from Berger and a nifty touch to keep possession that also brought out the keeper. Sotillo then flicked the ball over the goalie's head into the net.
A Berger-to-Atanackovic combination with 22:30 left in the match ended the scoring.
For Kodama and his tribe, Monday's one-sided loss is one the veteran coach — who returned to the Indians after a two-season hiatus — said his team must move on from quickly as it travels to face Muir on Wednesday.
"If you lose 7-0 or 1-0, it's the same thing," he said. "We have to regroup and respond. There's still a long ways to go."
As for the two-time reigning league champion, it is very much hoping to carry on everything about Monday.
"[We knew today] a tie's not good enough. It's a must-win," Atanackovic said. "A win's always a good momentum starter. Something had to spark us."