As the La Cañada High boys’ soccer team executed its offensive attack, it would often turn to senior Marcus Chmielewski to sneak through the backline of opposing defenders for scoring runs.
Though his elusiveness provided many scoring opportunities, he was also a play-making threat as his quick passing abilities opened up things for other teammates, and oftentimes that would be fellow senior J.P. Crispi.
La Cañada went unbeaten in its Rio Hondo League campaign on the way to defending its title, and Chmielewski was named the league’s most valuable player and Crispi was honored as most valuable offensive player.
“There’s a lot of reassurance, and today, I’m not afraid to say that La Cañada is the strongest school in Rio Hondo League boys’ soccer,” La Cañada coach Bruno Costa said. “La Cañada pretty much confirmed its leadership position because the class of 2020 only saw two defeats in league in four years. They won league three out of four years. They pretty much consolidated the school’s leadership position in boys’ soccer.”
The Spartans secured their second successive league title and went unbeaten at 9-0-1. La Cañada won nine straight league games before the Spartans closed out the regular season with a scoreless draw against Temple City.
La Cañada, which finished with an overall record 16-3-3 , defeated Jurupa Hills, 4-2, in the opening round of the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs. But a trip to the quarterfinals was stumped by Palmdale, 1-0.
Chmielewski led the Spartans in scoring with 15 goals and also recorded five assists. Against South Pasadena on Jan. 10, the Occidental College-bound forward scored a tough but impressive hat-trick, Costa said.
“He stepped up a level because he developed not only a sense of goal scoring, but also a sense of connection in games,” Costa said. “He was connecting a lot of passes, especially because of his first touch. That already came in practice where we worked quite a bit on his ability to release the ball on his first touch, move off his marker and get in front of the goalkeeper or beating the defenders only by doing short touches and movement.”
“He quickly stepped up. He also kept progressing on his physical abilities and he was able to build a positive leadership over the team. He played a key role in getting us solid in league play.”
Crispi, who was the league player of the year in 2019 and made the transition from attacking midfielder to wing, was second in scoring with 10 goals and added nine assists.
“Crispi scored many critical goals, but most importantly, he gave at least five or six assists to different players, like Marcus and Andrew Ignatian,” Costa said. “He was one of the pivotal players in the attack. I think it’s remarkable, his versatility.”
Alongside the senior pair were 10 other Spartans who received all-league honors.
Included in the first-team was senior defender Chris Kim, senior defender Andy Kozanian, junior midfielder Noah Truong (four goals, one assist), senior forward Michael Smith and senior goalkeeper Max Landa.
In the all-league second team included junior defender Luke Hong, sophomore Christopher Boghossian (four goals, one assist) and Ignatian (eight goals, one assist), a junior forward.
Spartans sophomore Tyler Na-Nakornpanom (four goals) and senior Arian Shapourifar were league honorable mentions.