LA CRESCENTA — While still rolling through the season without a defeat, the Crescenta Valley High boys' soccer team has hardly been a juggernaut. There's been times during this season's Pacific League title defense when the Falcons have given other teams hope after allowing them to hang around for a half or more.
Friday afternoon's rivalry matchup with Arcadia was one of those times, as Crescenta Valley was locked in a scoreless tie at halftime despite holding an overwhelming possession and shot advantage. But the Falcons tend to follow an ineffective half with a dominant one and did so once again on Friday, breaking out of their scoring slump to claim a 3-0 victory and hold fast to first place in league.
"The Arcadia game and the Pasadena game were very similar in that sense — we kind of played long ball in the first half and then we started to figure things out as the second half gets going," said Falcons Coach Grant Clark, whose team trailed the Bulldogs by a goal after the first half on Jan. 13 only to come back for a 2-1 win. "Luckily we didn't give up a goal in the first half in this game. The defense did a great job in the back, they kept everybody under wraps back there and they gave the offense time to figure things out a little bit.
"We didn't play our best today. We've had much better games than this."
Crescenta Valley (9-0-6, 5-0-2 in league) didn't find the back of the net in the first half despite taking nine shots to just one for Arcadia (5-3-1, 3-3-1). Five of them were on goal, including well-struck balls from just outside the penalty box by Pavle Atanackovic and Alex Berger and a Berger shot in the middle of the box off a cross from Salar Hajimirsadeghi on the right wing that was saved.
"We started off the game kind of slow, I don't know what was wrong with us," said Hajimirsadeghi, who scored the middle of three second-half goals for Crescenta Valley, sandwiched by a pair of Atanackovic tallies. "In the second half, we came out strong, though. We started passing more and we started controlling the middle more."
Hajimirsadeghi's long shot attempt that struck the crossbar in the 49th minute served just as good as a pass when the carom went high and straight up in the air and bounced right in front of Atanackovic in the goal box. Goalkeeper Yusuf Elmasri got in front of the header, but it still deflected off his body and into the goal.
"Once we got that first goal, everything just started falling in place," Hajimirsadeghi said. "We started doing everything right."
Hajimirsadeghi's goal followed 16 minutes later, when he squared up a loose ball that got away from Atanackovic while he was being swarmed in the goal box and booted it home. Atanackovic's last goal, a nudge into the left side of the goal from a few feet out, was academic, as it came with less than a minute remaining in the match.
"It wasn't a beautiful game, it was kind of an ugly game, but if you get three goals and you give up none, that's a good result," Clark said. "Every win is three more points that everybody else [in league] has to catch up on."