By Julian Prime
Photos by Jenny Luo
The boys’ varsity soccer team tied the La Canada Spartans today, saving the game from being a loss with a last minute header from junior Oskar Hernandez. After a frustrating first half, the Tigers’ aggressiveness and momentum helped them find their offensive footing and bounce back from last week’s loss against Blair. Senior Kevin Yonami helped the Tigers on both offense and defense, creating chances for his team on the attack, and breaking up multiple potential Spartan breakaways. With the tie, the Tigers’ record now stands at 5-1-1.
The first half showcased very little offense for the Tigers, and was a defensive battle for them. Early on in the game, La Canada found a break in South Pas’ defense and fired a hard drive right into sophomore goalkeeper Kevin Foster‘s hands, who couldn’t collect the save. The shot went just inside the right post and gave the Spartans an early 1-0 lead. The game continued, aggressiveness taking over on both sides of the ball. Possession went back and forth between the teams, and neither could find anything promising on offense. Senior Patrick Nelson, who sustained a concussion earlier in the season against the Spartans, hit his head and was taken out of the game. The injury would not be serious, but the coaches were cautious not to make it worse. As the half went on, the Tigers continued to have trouble moving the ball forward. La Canada’s superior ball control made it difficult for South Pas to create chanced for their forwards. When the half ended, the Tigers trailed 1-0.
The Spartans came out strong in the second half, looking to extend their lead. When they had possession in the box, a La Canada player received a yellow card for flopping, giving South Pas a free kick from deep in their own territory. Yonami took this opportunity and broke through the Spartan defense with touchy dribbling. The stout Spartan defense, however, would prevent him from equalizing the game. The Spartans answered right back with a chance of their own, but missed left. The Tigers then had a series of potential chances at a goal, starting with an Oscar Jaime III free kick. The kick would find a Spartan defender, who couldn’t maintain possession, setting the Tigers up for a corner kick. As soon as the ball was kicked, La Canada’s goalie came in and foiled any chance of a South Pas equalizer.
The Tigers kept pressure on the ball and forced a South Pas throw in deep in La Canada’s territory. As the ball was lobbed in the air, a South Pas player came down hard on a Spartan defender’s head, who remained on the ground writhing in pain. He would shoo off the substitute and continue playing after taking a quick breather. Senior Ramon Gutierrez then had a chance for the Tigers, setting up with a free kick. The shot was blocked by the goalie yet again, and La Canada had another chance to extend their lead. However, the Tigers were relentless on defense, and a series of steals led them to another chance on goal, only to be thwarted by the Spartan goalie yet again. La Canada continued to be physical, especially in their own box, but kept their play safe and not committing many fouls. After a call went the way of South Pas, a Spartan player kicked the ball out of play in frustration after the whistle was blown, prompting a yellow card. Jaime took another free kick, but the Spartan defense kept the Tigers from completing their drive.
Senior Jordan Jackmon, who signed his Letter of Intent earlier in the day, took a free kick from just outside the box, but the goalie was there. On the La Canada counter attack, junior Clayton Kabealo had a great clear to prevent a shot for the Spartans, jumping in front of the shooter and booting the ball far away from the box. La Canada immediately answered that with a speedy breakaway, but Yonami was there to track it down and eradicate it. With time ticking down, junior striker James Tulin came into the game, and Gutierrez immediately began setting him up for chances on offense, but to no avail. The Spartans had another chance to ice the game, but Foster game flying in to corral the ball before any Spartan could take an open shot. La Canada had obvious control of the possession at this time, and opened up the Tiger defense to set up another breakaway. Yonami came flying in from behind to stop a potential shot, and kept the Tigers’ chances alive with only minutes left.
The play in the middle of the field was especially physical, and Jaime was awarded a free kick on the 50 yard line. He fired a bomb into the La Canada box, where Hernandez was waiting to volley it in. Hernandez headed the ball just over the goalie’s extended arm, and tied the game up brilliantly.\
There was a clear momentum swing at this point, and the Tigers had a legitimate chance to put themselves ahead. Jackmon was given a yellow for an aggressive tackle, and was called back to the Tiger bench. On the ensuing free kick, Gutierrez was given a yellow for blocking the Spartan boot from within 10 yards.Jackmon was put in to replace him, and, after the Tigers blocked the La Canada shot again, was tripped up on a potential breakaway. The guilty Spartan was given a yellow for this, and it set South Pas up for another chance. Nothing would come out of this, and despite a few great chances and a corner kick, the Tigers couldn’t score the lead-changer. In one final last ditch effort, the Spartans carried the ball up and shot it, but Foster was there to prevent any last minute heroics, icing the game at 1-1. While the books will show a tie, the Tigers showed their resilience and ability to play under pressure.
The team’s next game is on Friday, February 6, against Temple City on the road. The Tigers will be looking to improve their overall record to 6-1-1, and will hopefully complete their season sweep of the Rams.