LA CAÑADA — By the time the Glendale High and La Cañada boys’ soccer teams took to the field for their match Saturday night, the Nitros and Spartans were already assured of competing against each other in Monday’s championship contest of the La Cañada Holiday Tournament.
By virtue of having tallied four points apiece in their first two tournament matches, Glendale and La Cañada treated Saturday’s match more like a dress rehearsal for Monday’s winner-take-all contest.
La Cañada received first-half goals from Filipp Franke and Sam Adida en route to a 2-1 victory against Glendale.
La Cañada improved to 6-1-3 and defeated Glendale for the second time in as many matches this season. Glendale dipped to 5-3-1. The title match will be held at 5 p.m. Monday at La Cañada High.
“I think both teams are pretty similar,” said Franke, a senior midfielder. “It’s going to be a real good game Monday.
“Tonight, I thought we moved the ball real well in the first half. In the second half, they came back at us. You have to be able to recognize their key players.”
The Spartans, who finished second in the Rio Hondo League last season, grabbed a 1-0 advantage in the 22nd minute. Senior forward Tristan Afshar placed an accurate pass up field to Franke, who got past a Glendale defender and put a shot past Glendale starting goalkeeper Arman Sargsyan.
“I was moving without the ball and really trying to make an inside run toward the goal,” Franke said. “I had made eye contact with Tristan and he hit the ball right to me to score.”
La Cañada continued to enjoy a big territorial edge against Glendale in the first half. The Spartans caught the Nitros off guard to take a 2-0 lead in the 39th minute, when an indirect kick by junior defender Nicholas Pereira was directed in by Adida, a freshman midfielder.
La Cañada Coach Alex Harrison said getting off to a good start early helped settle down the Spartans.
“It was nice to get those two first-half goals,” said Harrison, whose team posted a 3-1 nonleague road victory against Glendale on Dec. 13. “It allowed them to relax a bit more.
“When these team get together, it’s a lot like a chess match. We have respect for them and they are the best team we’ve played in a while. They have some dangerous attackers. Now, we have to play them a third time, and it’s always hard to beat the same team three times. This was kind of like a dress rehearsal.”
Glendale, which took fourth in the Pacific League last season, showed vast improvement in the second half.
The Nitros sliced the lead to 2-1 in the 62nd minute on a penalty shot by junior forward Avo Haroutunyan, after La Cañada senior defender Joseph Kim was called for a hand ball inside the box. Haroutunyan rolled a low shot inside the right post past La Cañada reserve goalkeeper Michael Selsor, who made in first appearance of the season.
Glendale then had a couple of good scoring opportunities in the final 12 minutes. Selsor stopped a 20-yard shot by senior forward Menua Nazarian. Haroutunyan then headed a cross by junior midfielder Berg Ghazarian just wide of the left post in the 77th minute.
Glendale Coach Artur Aghasyan said the Nitros will look to regroup in time for Monday’s match.
“We got some excellent chances in the second half and we want to take it from there into Monday,” Aghasyan said. “It will be a worthy final.
“Both of these teams are very good and know what the other team likes to do. It will be a good game.”