LA CRESCENTA — There was no denying a sense of embarrassment and disappointment many members of the Crescenta Valley High boys’ soccer team felt in the aftermath of a loss to Pacific League rival Pasadena on Jan. 17.
The Falcons were outmuscled and outscored by two goals in a defeat that players and coaches were referencing before and after the team’s rematch at Crescenta Valley on Friday afternoon.
The Falcons showed championship fight in cunningly balancing the line between being aggressive and out of control in a momentous 4-1 victory over the previously unbeaten Bulldogs in a match that included five yellow cards and two fan ejections.
“Boy, this is a big one for us,” Falcons Coach Grant Clark said. “Give the boys credit because they put together a good game in a hard loss versus Burroughs (a 1-0 defeat on Monday) and today against Pasadena, a team that beat us, 3-1, and made us look pretty bad.
“Our boys stepped up and had a solid game. This is the type of win you can hang your hat on and say, ‘Hey, we’ve turned the corner.’”
With the victory, the CIF Southern Section Division III ninth-ranked Falcons improved to 19-4-3 overall and 8-3-1 in league for 24 points, which is behind No. 7 Pasadena (14-1-3, 9-1-2 for 29 points) and fifth-ranked Burroughs (13-3-5, 9-1-2) with two matches remaining in the regular season.
Crescenta Valley iced the contest late with two goals over a seven-minute stretch.
The Falcons already led, 2-0, when a Falcons’ 20-yard shot on goal in the 68th minute was stopped by Bulldogs goalie Isaac Monay (four saves).
Unfortunately for Monay, his block squirted off his chest and right into the path of Falcons hard-charging forward Jason Winicki, who tapped in a five-yarder to put Crescenta Valley ahead, 3-0.
Whatever sting Pasadena felt turned to shock when Falcons junior halfback Justin Wright blocked a Bulldogs pass from midfield off his shins, which led to a breakaway opportunity.
Wright took possession 40 yards from goal and raced unabated to the opposing net before firing a right-to-left score from 12 yards to cement the Falcons’ offense.
“We came out here and knew we had to beat Pasadena,” Falcons senior forward Chris Sinani said. “We wanted to show them who the better team was. They came out last time, called us out – that we were soft – and we just played with heart.”
The first time both teams met, Pasadena netted two goals within the opening 10 minutes en route to the victory.
This time around, the Falcons struck first when senior halfback Tony Royer scored the first of two goals in the 13th minute when he headed in a goal off a corner kick from Sinani.
“We knew we had to come out and score first,” Royer said. “Scoring has been a big problem for us lately, so we knew we had to get out ahead.”
Royer’s goal was the only one for either side in the first half, as the Falcons maintained a 1-0 lead until the 47th minute when Royer scored again, this time off an attempt created on a free kick from senior defender Daniel Eng.
While Pasadena outshot Crescenta Valley, 11-8, the Bulldogs were denied six times by Falcons goalie Adan Martinez.
Martinez hauled in a backheel chip from Pasadena’s Yezid Lopez in the 50th minute off a great cross from teammate Dylan Elias before denying Sean Kaufman in the 73rd minute.
Eventually, Pasadena notched its lone goal in the 80th minute on a header from Adrian Delmora off an assist from Alexander Hernandez.
The score ended a frustrating day for Pasadena, which appeared to lose its cool after a yellow card was given to Falcons midfielder Brian Ju in the 35th minute, much to the disappointment of the Bulldogs’ bench and crowd, which had called for a red card.
Crescenta Valley was assessed two yellow cards in each half, while two fans were bizarrely ejected in the 78th minute for taunting a Pasadena player.
The distractions proved too much for Pasadena.
“It was a physical game and we had a referee who allowed for a physical game,” Pasadena Coach Cherif Zein said. “This is a young team with four sophomores and I told them that this was part of the game. They just let it get to them.”