The Crescenta Valley Falcons beat North Saxons in Torrance 1-0 in a temper flared match to advance to quarterfinals.
Having barely won their last match in overtime, the Falcons faced a tougher challenge against North (12-5-8 overall, 8-0-2 league) who had finished the season at the top of their division.
Both teams were aggressive from the start of the match. At kickoff forward Pavle Atanackovic played a pass to Jaehoon Jung to the left side of the field whose lob aimed to Salar Hajimirsadeghi didn’t click as he missed the header.
Midfielder Michael Shanazarians played a long pass to fellow midfielder Jung inside the penalty box, leaving only goalkeeper Saxon James Lisardi for the net. However his attempt for a lob over him failed as he lost control of the ball due to the severe wind, dropping the ball into the goalkeeper’s hands.
On another possession, defender Chris Fierro played a long pass aimed to Atanackovic, but Atanackovic couldn’t control it due to tight defense. Fortunately Falcon midfielder Alex Berger got the ball out of the scramble but his shot struck wide to the right side of the goalkeeper.
Atanackovic had another opportunity but unfortunately came up short.
Jung played a lob to fellow midfielder Hajimirsadeghi for a header but he missed it. However, Atanackovic got after the ball but his shot was saved as Lisardi slid to the wrong side but his feet kept it out.
Although the Saxons had fewer opportunities they came close to score several times.
Saxon captain and midfielder Claudio Rodriguez shot 20 yards from the field but was saved by Falcons’ goalkeeper Nick Ruiz as he dived to his left to keep it out of the pocket.
Their second and last opportunity of the half was more aggressive as Saxon midfielder Shaun Nagano played a cross pass inside the penalty box to Rodriguez but his shot was thwarted by the Falcons defense.
Things were already starting to flare up which eventually led to a big melee in the second half.
One of the Saxons players pulled the shirt of defender Fierro from behind as he said, “Hey!” in dismay. That led to the referee awarding him a yellow card – a warning that if he repeated such behavior, he would be sent off the match.
Other than that minor incident things looked calm between both teams as they headed into halftime with a goalless scoreboard.
The second half was all about opportunities and maintaining composure amidst a chaotic atmosphere.
Falcons midfielder Berger passed to Atanackovic who controlled the long pass and gave it to teammate Eric Keshishian. He dribbled past two defenders and struck wide to the left side.
Eventually, the Falcons were able to capture the only goal of the match.
Berger played a lob to Shahnazarians inside the penalty box; however his pass was punched out by goalkeeper Lisardi. Fortunately, Shahnazarians got the rebound and put it into the empty net as the Saxons’ defender got there too late to cover for the goalkeeper.
The goal only added tension between the teams.
Keshishian got into Rodriguez’s face as Rodriguez tackled him. The Saxons’ captain responded with a smirk on his face that infuriated Keshishian. The referee gave Rodriguez a yellow card for his tackle like he did to another Saxons player.
Rodriguez again tackled Falcons midfielder Hajimirsadeghi. This led to a verbal exchange between both players as Rodriguez got so angry by one of Hajimirsadeghi’s comments that he started to run at him to punch him. However his teammates held him back. The Falcons bench also got up in anticipation of the worst case scenario.
Fortunately, one of the Falcons managers ordered his team to sit down in a loud voice, restoring order and control.
After the yellow card, Rodriguez was given a red card meaning he was sent off for the remainder of the game. Saxons’ head coach Dany Pena started complaining to the referee regarding the decision and he was awarded a yellow card.
The Saxons, apparently energized by the incident, came very close to leveling the match in the last minutes and sending it into overtime.
Midfielder Nagano’s corner kick found forward Bryan Johnson, a lanky player whose header hit the upper post. That was their last chance as the referee blew the whistle to end the game.
Head Coach Kiel McClung said it was the defensive effort of the team that got them the win starting with the goalkeeper adding that he was sympathetic towards the ejected player.
“[Claudio Rodriguez] was a great player, unfortunately he lost his head in a shoving match,” McClung said.
The Falcons next play the winner of El Rancho and Hawthorne on Friday at CV.