LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE — Crescenta Valley High dominated the first half against North Hollywood in its boys' soccer game as part of group play in the Ralph Brandt Tournament at St. Francis High on Friday evening, but came away with a single goal.
The slim advantage and a dip in intensity by the Falcons left the door open for their City Section opponent, who frustrated the Falcons with a late goal to salvage a 1-1 tie.
“I think the thing where they got the goal is we just didn’t have the intensity that we could have had the whole game,” said Crescenta Valley Coach Grant Clark, whose team is ranked No. 1 in CIF Southern Section Division III, a season after winning the Division IV crown. “We lagged off a little bit, maybe it was fitness, but we didn’t drop and we didn’t cover and they did a good job of overloading one side and then crossing it in. They got themselves in a good situation. You’ve got to give a team like that credit for putting themselves in a spot to score a goal.”
Crescenta Valley (2-0-1) outshot North Hollywood in the first half at a ratio approaching five to one, but, after an early goal, key saves by the Huskies’ keeper kept the Falcons at bay.
From the outset Crescenta Valley used an organized offense and aggressive midfield defense to set up repeated scoring chances and, less than 10 minutes into the contest, the attack paid dividends.
Crescenta Valley’s Matt Ryan, who played with high energy throughout, broke down the right side of the field heading to goal as a pass down the line skipped off the wet turf and past Ryan and his North Hollywood (0-1-2) defender. The junior collected the pass, blasting a low shot that ricocheted off Huskies goalkeeper Daniel Moreno’s legs and into the side netting for an early lead.
“I saw it skip off the grass and I just decided to hit it one time. It deflected off the keeper, but I’ll take it,” Ryan said of his first goal of the young season.
But that would be the Falcons’ only goal, despite a slew of quality chances the rest of the half. Ryan almost followed his goal with an assist as he dribbled deep down the right side, turning into the goal through traffic to send a pass along the ground to the sliding Pablo Hernandez, who could not quite get a quality touch on the ball to finish the play. Ten minutes later, Erick Trejo dribbled down the middle of the pitch, beating five defenders, but his shot was pushed wide for a corner by Moreno. Two minutes after that, Falcon Pablo Sotillo hit a volley that looked to have a chance, but was also saved.
“Their goalkeeper made some really nice saves,” Clark said. “You give him credit for keeping them in the game because, with the opportunities that we had against some other keeper we might see throughout the year, it could have been 4-0 really early.”
The North Hollywood keeper also possessed a strong leg that he repeatedly used to start the counter-attack despite the Falcons being aware of the tactic.
“All night long [Moreno] was able to kick it five yards further then we were in our back line. That guy’s got a good leg and we never quite got to where we needed to get,” Clark said.
In the second half, North Hollywood took to overloading its right side of the field, an approach that yielded numerous scoring chances. The Huskies finally cashed in on one of them in the 74th minute when David Charez barely stayed onside, slipping through the Crescenta Valley defense as the pass did. Charez then struck a low driving shot that went past Falcon goalie Josh Cook for the equalizer.
“I thought we played really well the first half. The second half we didn’t connect as well. It was an unlucky game in my opinion,” Ryan said.
Throughout the contest, Crescenta Valley’s forwards had trouble staying onside, negating multiple scoring chances. This included a disallowed goal by Ryan early in the second half after the Falcons were whistled for clearly being offside.
“We knew they were going to run the flat four,” Clark said. “They were pretty stationary and we had some people go in and just not carry out the plan as they should’ve.”
In its other game as part of the Ralph Brandt Tournament, North Hollywood also tied with a 2-2 result against St. Francis on Thursday. This means the Falcons’ game Saturday night against the Golden Knights will decide the winner of their group.
“North Hollywood and St. Francis tied yesterday and we tied today,” Clark said. “So, if we win, we’ll have more points than St. Francis and we’ll take the group.”