By David O’CONNOR
The Crescenta Valley Falcons boys’ soccer team was unable to prevent an incredible attacking display from Glendale High School’s mid-fielders who steered their side to a comprehensive 3-1 victory at Osborne Field on Tuesday.
There was a lot riding on the outcome of this contest. Prior to kick-off both teams shared a similar Pacific League record with CVHS losing one more game than the Nitros, and there was nothing splitting the rivals in an opening-round scoreless tie at Glendale HS on Jan. 20.
It was a case of CVHS being unable to convert numerous scoring opportunities in the opening half and having to contend with a dangerous Nitros mid-field that was the ultimate package – physically intimidating, quick on their feet and a unit that worked in unison when it mattered.
In the 14th minute CVHS goalie Makan Afzali thwarted a Glendale player’s lethal 25-yard strike that required him to leap to his left and pull off an unforgettable airborne save.
Minutes later Falcons sophomore forward Henry Barkhordarian got close to serving up key-player Justin Wright with the opening goal, but misplaced the feed with Wright open and only 10 yards from the goal.
The next scoring chance for the home team came after the Nitros fouled junior defender Augustine Ahn, who took several minutes to recover from the jarring hit. CVHS was awarded a precious penalty kick and Wright lined up the shot, but faked the attempt that was taken by senior mid-fielder Kevin Ginosian and he couldn’t close the deal due to the shot ricocheting off a Nitro’s defender.
The turning point of the match came three minutes from halftime with Barkhordarian feeding Ginosian a pinpoint pass with only the goalie to beat, yet the attempt found the keeper’s reliable clutches. In the ensuing play, the Nitros swiftly sent the ball downfield and found the Falcons’ defenders asleep and drilled the ball past Afzali for the opening goal.
This goal hurt the Falcons considering it was scored against the run-of-play and they dominated the half with superior field position and more scoring chances than Glendale.
Falcons Head Coach Grant Clark wasn’t disappointed in his player’s efforts, but lamented a couple of missed openings in an evenly contested first half and gave credit to a Glendale team who stood out when it counted.
“It’s tough because in the first half I felt like it was pretty even. Unfortunately one of those opportunities led to a counter-attack and we made a mistake in the back,” said Clark. “There were some things we did wrong, but there were a lot of things Glendale did right and I’m not necessarily disappointed in the effort that the boys gave.”
Two minutes after the break the Nitros mid-field stamped their authority on the game with a phase of play that allowed one of their players to weave through a bunch of feeble Falcons defenders and extend the lead to 2-0 with a left foot strike that easily beat Afzali.
Glendale put the game beyond doubt in the 64th minute with a simple goal due to the Falcon’s defense giving the Nitro’s mid-field free-rein yet again. The Falcons scored a consolation goal courtesy of senior forward Tyler Hovsepian, who chipped in an open shot after Wright’s penalty kick rebounded off a Glendale defender.
Although the Falcons fell to 5-5-3 in league play, there is still much to celebrate with their captain and star player Wright signing with the UC Davis Mustangs on a partial athletic scholarship on Feb. 4, which includes additional tuition covered by grants and academic.
The Mustangs began scouting Wright at the Surf Cup in the summer and this resulted in the 16-year veteran Coach Dwayne Shaffer inviting Wright to UC Davis for a one-week coaching camp, which resulted in an offer being made to the Falcons’ leading scorer, who has netted 16 goals in 23 appearances.
Wright felt he would be a good fit for the Mustang’s possession-oriented style of play, but was overwhelmed and thankful for this surreal opportunity and praised his coaches who were instrumental in making his dream a reality. He also hopes to make a big-splash in his freshman year with a lot of playing time and plans to pursue pre-med after he graduates.
“Signing was incredible, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that,” Wright said. “I don’t know how to describe the emotion, but I’m so thankful for the opportunity to play there and thankful for the coaches for what they’ve done for me and for everything that Coach Clark has done and just my whole journey in soccer itself.
“Not a lot of people get to play D1 sport, let alone at UC Davis. I think it’s quite a privilege and honor to be a part of that team.”