by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
For nearly 70 minutes, the Sonora boys’ soccer team made league-leading Fullerton look like just another league opponent.
The Raiders dominated the midfield, which led to an increased number of scoring opportunities, but Fullerton goalkeeper Cesar Herrera was up to the challenge in shutting out Sonora’s potent offense.
After weathering Sonora’s storm, the Indians finished on a flurry, scoring three goals in the final 11 minutes for a 3-0 win at Fullerton, Wednesday afternoon.
“These games are really hard because, for all intents and purposes, we dominated them,” said Cory Witt, Sonora head coach. “We didn’t give up 10 minutes, but after that [first] goal, it was very deflating. We must have had seven quality chances, maybe eight today.”
Fullerton (15-3-3, 5-1-1) tallied its first score in the 69th minute off a corner kick to the head of defender Sammy McKay, who was up in the box to redirect the kick to the far side of the net.
One minute later, Sonora midfielder Juan Villalobos got a through ball up to forward Giancarlo Oros, but the forward’s shot went directly to Herrera who bumped it over the cross bar.
The Raiders’ ensuing corner kick was cleared. Four minutes later, Fullerton bumped a long throw-in to forward Josh Pilvosky on the far side for an easy score.
Defender Clayton Mohler finished the scoring in the 79th minute when his penalty kick got past a diving Luis Gonzalez.
“I have to give them a lot of credit, they withstood the pressure,” Witt said. “Defensively, they held their ground. I thought they made some big mistakes that we couldn’t capitalize on. I give their keeper a ton of credit, he’s their MVP today, he made some great saves.”
To get to that point, Fullerton had to persevere through a relentless Sonora attack. The Raiders kept constant pressure on Fullerton in the first half to the point where Indians’ defenders scrambled just to clear a ball out of the defensive third rather than start a possession.
The Raiders (5-6-3, 2-4-1) started a string of attacks in the 21st minute when Jose Murillo baited Herrera to come out of the net, but missed solid contact on a cross from Eli Rico-Torres.
The next time Murillo touched the ball, he rifled a shot that was tipped by Herrera and bounced off the cross bar.
The Raiders continued to attack thanks to some extra help in the midfield.
“Our three-midfielder set causes teams fits,” Witt said. “If you don’t adjust your lineup to match it, you’re going to be in trouble. That’s our strength, we have three of the best midfielders in the league.”
Rico-Torres collected a through ball on the left side in the 29th minute, but Herrera came up with the stop.
Early in the second half, a shot by Murillo bounced off a Fullerton defender to the right foot of Rico-Torres, who missed a bit high on the near corner.
Forward Andy Araiza missed an opportunity in the 48th minute after failing to get solid contact on another great cross by Rico-Torres.
In the 56th minute, a header by Rico-Torres off a free kick by Villalobos was saved by a diving Herrera.
The Raiders fall into a fourth place tie with La Habra after the loss. Sonora will attempt to bounce back at home against Buena Park, Friday afternoon.
“We‘re going to get back to work tomorrow and we have to keep our heads straight,” Witt said. “I just told our guys that we just took it to the No. 1 team in our league and the No. 7 team in Orange County. They’re very good and we made them look mediocre and I don’t know what it was, we seemed to get up for this game, which was good. It’s a tough loss.”
It was a day of redemption for the La Habra boys’ soccer team in a 2-1 victory over Sunny Hills, Wednesday afternoon at home.
For the second time in as many games against the Lancers, the Highlanders took a lead in the first half.
After receiving two yellow cards in the first matchup, forward Joe Salinas got his own personal redemption against the Lancers by scoring La Habra’s first goal.
Ray Flores added a score and the Highlanders led 2-0 at halftime.
La Habra (8-8-3, 2-4-1) shifted its attention to defense in the second half in order to hold on for the win.
“We were able to use the width of the field, when our wings got the ball out wide, they would go at them, which led to us getting balls in the box,” said Earvin Aleman, La Habra head coach. “Their goalie wasn’t coming out as much, which helped with creating our chances.”
In the 20th minute, Israel Alvarez put a solid touch on a corner kick to the near post, which Salinas redirected for a goal.
Later in the half in the 35th minute, Austin Nazer bumped a long throw-in to Flores on the far side for an easy tap-in goal.
“We told the guys that it’s not so much whether we win or lose, but how we come out and play,” Aleman said. “We’re at home, so we’re expected to play our game. I think that was a big thing for us from the very beginning and it carried throughout the game.”
In the second half, La Habra focused its efforts on defense, preventing Sunny Hills (10-5-5, 3-2-2) from executing its offensive gameplan.
“We knew they were a long ball team, so when we had a sense that they were going to send it, we had them drop,” Aleman said. “That’s what they did, they were teeing the ball up, but we were there every time. Ray and Israel really picked it up with second balls.”
The Highlanders will hope to keep the momentum when they battle Troy on the road, Friday afternoon.
“This win boosts us up big time,” Aleman said. “We haven’t been playing bad, but considering the results and the fact that we’re still in it, we still need to take it one game at a time.”