Sports

Defensive lapses cost Highlanders against Fullerton

Ray Flores (pictured against Troy) returned to the field for the Highlanders and scored a penalty kick goal in the 4th minute.
Ray Flores (pictured against Troy) returned to the field for the Highlanders and scored a penalty kick goal in the 4th minute.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

With its first league victory on Wednesday, the La Habra boys’ soccer team continued to control tempo early on in its home matchup with Fullerton, Friday afternoon.

The Highlanders took an early lead in the 4th minute on a penalty kick by midfielder Ray Flores, but the team became complacent in the middle portion of the game, which allowed the Indians to storm back and take the game 3-2.

Ultimately, defensive miscues in set pieces did the Highlanders in, as Fullerton (14-3-3. 4-1-1) scored two goals on corner kicks and a third on a free kick.

“I don’t know if it was fatigue, I’m not quite sure what played into that,” said Earvin Aleman, La Habra head coach. “The win on Wednesday reminded us that we still have a chance, I thought that when we scored the early goal we could continue to dictate the game.”

La Habra (7-8-3, 1-4-1) stormed out of the gates, pushing the ball into the offensive third. Ray Flores, in his first game back from injury, was awarded a penalty kick after the Indians fouled Joe Salinas in the box.

Flores promptly beat Indians’ goalkeeper Cesar Herrera to give La Habra an early 1-0 lead.

“It was great to have him back, especially for his leadership more than anything,” Aleman said. “When he’s here, it helps Israel [Alvarez] in the middle too because he doesn’t have to worry about so much.”

Midway through the half, La Habra’s energy dropped, which led to an increased number of fouls.

On the set pieces, La Habra’s defense missed the back side help. In the 26th minute, goalkeeper Richie Ruiz made a diving stop, but Fullerton’s Clayton Mohler was left unguarded on the back side and tapped in the rebound for the equalizer.

During the play, a whistle blew during the kick, which through the Highlanders’ defense off guard.

“I think that through everyone off,” Aleman said. “But still, whistle or no whistle, you have to defend properly.”

Mohler gave the Indians the lead in the 51st minute when he redirected a corner kick into the far side of the net.

Fullerton stretched the lead five minutes later off another corner kick. The ball bounced off a La Habra defender and found the left foot of defender Sammy McKay, who put it in on the near side.

“A mistake there and two mistakes here on marking cost us the game,” Aleman said. “We’re still in it though, we just have to worry about qualifying for CIF, because if we do that, anything can happen.”

It wasn’t until the 74th minute that La Habra found itself reenergized.

Driving down the right side, Israel Alvarez collected a loose ball and centered it to Austin Nazer, who used one touch to get it to Charlie Aleman on the left side for an easy goal.

The Highlanders lost another potential opportunity during the second half on a close offside call.

La Habra will try to bounce back with a home game against Sunny Hills, Wednesday afternoon. Sunny Hills defeated the Highlanders 3-1 in an overtime game earlier this season.

“We just need to come out, we should have beaten Sunny Hills the first time, I thought we dictated that game, but the red card killed us,” Aleman said. “We just need to remember our assignments on marking and we’ll be all right.”

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.