SOUTH PASADENA — It took only three minutes to break down the La Cañada High boys’ soccer team’s Rio Hondo League momentum at South Pasadena on Thursday.
The Tigers senior captain Reo Snyder took advantage of the Spartans’ early mistakes and scored twice in two minutes, then set up a third goal on a free kick a minute later to give the hosts a three-goal lead in the opening 15 minutes.
La Cañada had no answer for South Pasadena and was shut out for the first time in league play this season in a 5-0 loss that dented the Spartans’ hopes for a second league title in three years.
“My biggest take of today’s game is that the mental state is huge on any team at any level,” La Cañada coach Bruno Costa said. “South Pasadena gets a goal out of a mistake, they grew out of it, they get confidence and, all of sudden, all of their passes work, all of their long balls work, all of their offside traps work.
“Everything is beautiful. The sky is blue. And it got in our minds. We did not see that coming.”
The Spartans (12-5-5, 4-1-2 in league) were coming off a crucial 1-0 victory against defending league champion Monrovia on Tuesday and, prior to their game against the Tigers, shared the top spot with Temple City.
Temple City (10-3-5, 5-0-2) defeated visiting San Marino, 2-0, in a league contest Thursday.
“We have to cool down, reflect, regain strength and go play the game,” Costa said. “Based on the previous games we’ve played against every single school in the league, I know we have all the elements to come back and get stronger again, so I will say it’s an open game. Last game against Temple City was very close, so we’ll see.”
Though the Spartans had an early chance in the third minute that proceeded with an offside call, the Tigers closed in on the midfield and blocked every passing lane, resulting in a rash of turnovers.
“A series of mistakes happen, then they get three goals, then we’re trapped within ourselves,” Costa said. “We never played today, and I think South Pasadena deserves merit for their mental toughness because the last time we saw them, it was the other way around.
“I believe that you cannot take away the credit from your opponent, but you have to understand what happens when the mental game doesn’t go in your favor, and that’s my biggest take from the game.”
The Spartans gave away possession in their third in the 11th minute and Snyder scored the opening goal.
A minute later, the Tigers (11-3-1, 4-3) dispossessed the Spartans right after the ensuing kickoff, and Snyder made his way down the field and took a shot from distance that hit the opposite corner for a 2-0 lead.
A foul in the Spartans’ third set up a free kick for Snyder, whose cross found Tigers junior Kai Endo to cap a three-goal outburst inside three minutes of play.
“That’s the way we’ve been playing all preseason,” South Pasadena coach Juan Zurita said. “Then, somehow, when league started, we kind of backed up a little bit. And I told them boys’ if we wanted to go to CIF, we have to play like we’ve been playing all preseason, and now is the time. There’s no time to waste.
“If [we played] with high pressure, then we have a game, and that’s exactly what they did. [La Cañada] is a good team, don’t get me wrong, but they couldn’t keep up with the pressure that we were putting. Whenever we did that, then we had advantages up in front.”
The Spartans never found their footing for the remainder of the first half, but the Tigers couldn’t find an opening to extend their lead.
“Today, we were trapped within ourselves,” Costa said. “Once we made a mistake and they got a goal, everything became shaky. I don’t have the numbers right now, but we’re able to exchange nine, 11 or 12 passes without a problem. Today, we weren’t able to put four because it got them.”
The Spartans best chance came early in the second half as Will Chant’s 44th minute header soared over the crossbar.
The Tigers tacked on two more goals in the second half from sophomore Porter Calva in the 52nd minute and senior Eamon Hornish in the 60th minute.
La Cañada had another great opportunity a minute later when junior Marcus Chmielweski went one-on-one with the South Pasadena goalkeeper, but his shot was blocked. Chant connected on the rebound for a shot toward an open net, but the Tigers were able to get a defender to clear the shot.