LA CRESCENTA — Holding a one-goal lead and a decided advantage in the run of play, Crescenta Valley High’s boys’ soccer team saw its play and momentum wane in the second half Thursday afternoon against Culver City.
“They had taken momentum in the second half there for a while,” Falcons Coach Grant Clark said.
Largely on the strength of set pieces, Culver City was finding scoring chances previously unavailable. But just like that, it presented the Falcons an opportunity they were quite willing to take.
Taking a throw-in deep in its own end, Culver City saw the ball roll past the goalie and Crescenta Valley senior Matt Ryan found himself with possession, an open net in front of him and seconds later the game-sealing goal, as the Falcons defeated the Centaurs, 3-0, in Westside Tournament play.
“There’s really no other way to put it really than a gift,” said Clark of Ryan’s goal, a no-doubter that the forward drilled home in the 71st minute.
While the game-changing goal might well have served as evidence that this is indeed the season of giving, it’s also been a season in which the Falcons are off to a promising 4-1-1 start.
“We’re getting results and we’re still building the confidence and the chemistry,” said senior defender Daniel Eng, who keyed the shutout along with sophomore Armin Cardenas-Nuño and senior Ricky Palafox.
Goalie Chris Mardiroussian needed to make just three saves in the shutout, as Crescenta Valley outshot the opposition, 20-5.
The Falcons struck for a 1-0 lead in the 30th minute when Eric Hartoonian went high on a shot from 18 yards out off the first of two assists from Justin Wright.
In the second half, though, the Falcons were on their heels, as Mardiroussian made all three of his saves in the final 40 minutes.
“The defense did a nice job of holding the fort down,” Clark said.
On one free kick, the ball was played just a few yards out from Mardiroussian, but a Centaur, who was a few feet behind his mark, played the ball with his chest but let the opportunity roll away. Minutes later, another free kick for Culver City (1-3-1) inside the box was flipped on net, but Mardiroussian jumped to make an excellent save.
Shortly after Ryan’s goal, Culver City had one final run, but it was all Crescenta Valley after that.
“Any time something like that happens, where it’s like a lucky fluke, it takes down a team’s morale,” Ryan said.
It showed in the 80th minute, when Wright split an unorganized defense with a pass into space where both Ryan and Kevin Ginosian were unmarked with nothing but the goaltender in front of them. Ginosian promptly rolled a shot between the goalie’s legs to put an exclamation point on the win.
“To be 4-1-1 right now is a really good spot for us,” said Clark, whose team takes on Knight at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Lancaster Soccer Complex in the Eagle Cup semifinals, with a win moving them on to the final later that day. “We’ve played some good teams. We understand each other to a certain degree. Now it’s just fine-tuning things.”