By Julian Prime
Photos by Jenny Luo
In the final minutes of play, junior forward James Tulin scored the game-winning goal that led the Tigers to their 3-2 win over the Monrovia Wildcats on Friday, January 23. Goalie Sam Hoadley-Brill and defender Kevin Yonami also contributed to the win, anchoring a strong Tiger defense that limited Monrovia’s chances. The Tigers, now 4-0 in league, played until the final whistle, and were successful in keeping their undefeated league season alive.
The game opened up with no real definitive team taking charge of the game. Both sides had numerous fouls to begin the game, and Monrovia began to take advantage of this and started maintaining possession. A stout Tiger defense limited the Wildcats’ chances in the box, and gave their offense many opportunities. Seniors Ramon Gutierrez and Jordan Jackmon, who have been a lethal 1-2 punch all year, broke through the Monrovia defense. Jackmon set Gutierrez up in the box beautifully, allowing him to punch the ball in for the first goal of the game. Monrovia countered right back with a solid attack, but couldn’t finish their run.
Frustration began to run high on both sides of the ball, each team questioning the referee’s calls. Senior captain Oscar Jaime III was given a yellow card for an overly aggressive tackle, which led the game into the half, Tigers up 1-0.
“We noticed that one of their better players was moved from the wing to the midfield,” junior Oskar Hernandez said. “We made sure that our defensive [middles] stayed central to protect our back line.”
Monrovia came out in the second half much more aggressive, and created an early chance for themselves. After a brilliant move by Monrovia to get around Hoadley-Brill, Jaime came barreling in to save a potential goal. Soon after, Monrovia showed their frustration by inciting a yellow of their own. The Tigers began to develop promising chances for themselves, but couldn’t finish in the box.
After a series of unsuccessful South Pas attacks, the Wildcats broke through the Tiger defense and, despite an athletic initial save by Hoadley-Brill, got the ball in the back of the net. Gutierrez answered right back with a spectacular free kick goal from outside the box to reclaim the lead for his team. Hoadley-Brill made another great save to prevent a second equalizer, and the Tigers continued their attack. Jackmon was given a yellow after a very frustrating series of unsuccessful Tiger runs and questionable calls involving him were made.
With only 13 minutes left, the Tigers led 2-1 and were looking to ice the game. The Wildcats, however, had other plans. Tight ball possession and talented dribbling highlighted a dazzling Monrovia run, ending with a goal to tie the game at 2. Junior Clayton Kabealo drew a yellow after play resumed, prompting a Wildcat free kick from outside the box. Hoadley-Brill came through again with a wonderful save to maintain the tie. After an unsuccessful Monrovia corner, Jackmon had a quick breakaway to set the Tigers up for a corner of their own. This would amount to nothing after the Wildcat goalie came flying in to prevent the goal.
Monrovia had one final chance to break the tie before the end of regulation with another free kick, but their efforts were thwarted again by Hoadley-Brill. With under two minutes to go, the game began to wind down despite intense play from both teams. Jackmon had a great breakaway that was blocked by the goalie, but ended up in Tulin’s possession, who then outran two Wildcat defenders to position himself one on one with the goalie. A clever chip shot got the ball just out of the goalie’s reach and into the back of the net, putting the Tigers up 3-2. Not to be outdone, Monrovia rushed up the field with the little time they had left, only to be stopped by Hoadley-Brill once more on a corner kick, effectively ending the game.
“The team played great today,” Hernandez said. “Everyone gave one-hundred percent until the very last minute.”
The win places the Tigers in an undisputed first place spot in the Rio Hondo standings, the only undefeated team in the league. The squad has been playing impressive soccer recently, and has established themselves as the top contender for the league crown. The team is looking to continue their win streak and stay undefeated with a win over the rival San Marino Titans on Wednesday, January 28.