La Canada soccer stumbles against South Pasadena
No. 1-ranked La Canada Spartans lose to South Pasadena Tigers, 2-1, in Rio Hondo League showdown.
South Pasadena's Zack Dunn, left, scored the Tigers' second goal on a penalty kick earned by Heven Gomez. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer / January 23, 2013)
The Tigers took first place from the Spartans, who were ranked No. 1 in CIF Southern Section Division V, with a 2-1 victory after scoring a minute before the halftime whistle and adding an insurance goal in extra time to become the only unbeaten team left in the league.
South Pasadena Coach Juan Zurita, whose team came into the game ranked No. 7 before improving to 11-1-1, 4-0-1 in league, said the game was extremely important for both sides.
“Both these teams will likely decide the league champion,” said Zurita, who got goals from Ramon Gutierrez and Zack Dunn. “Hopefully it's us, if everything goes our way, but we still have five more games to go.”
La Cañada Coach Alex Harrison said the loss was the Spartans’ first in 36 league matches and was a result of a lack of effort from his team.
“The intensity from their team was 100 percent better than ours,” said Harrison, whose team's goal came on a free kick from Armand Bagramyan in extra time. “They wanted it more, they won the game. We're full of ourselves and they played a good game. There's nothing to take away from them; only why didn't we show up?”
La Cañada (14-3-1, 4-1) came out with more intensity in the second half, but had trouble getting the ball to Bagramyan, its star forward and leading goal scorer, the whole game. The Spartans had just six shots with only two going on goal.
“We knew he was a key player for their team, so we knew if we kept tight to him the game wasn't going to go past the two-thirds for them,” Zurita said.
Still, La Cañada threatened to tie the score late when Armaan Zare flicked a pass to Bagramyan just on the right side of the Tigers box. South Pasadena goalie Christopher Mejia went out to get the ball and grabbed it outside the six-yard box, which gave the home team a promising free kick in extra time.
Keivan Meshkat crossed it on the ground to an unmarked Andrew Meeker in the middle of the box, but Meeker's shot was blocked by a South Pas defender and the ensuing corner didn't yield a shot.
The Tigers were finally able to breath easy when Dunn scored an insurance goal about a minute later on a penalty kick that was earned by Heven Gomez.
Bagramyan put the Spartans on the board a few minutes later on a free kick after he was fouled in the middle of the field about 25 yards from the Tigers goal.
Despite the two late goals, offense was hard to come by in the game, as both teams combined for just 14 shots in the game and four in the second half.
Thus, it was a big boost for South Pas when Gutierrez walked a ball into La Cañada's net a minute before the halftime whistle.
The goal developed on a low cross from the Gomez to Dunn, who was at the top of the Spartans box. Dunn fired a low shot that La Cañada goalkeeper Graham Labran-Boyd had to go down to block with a rebound popping up to Gutierrez.
Labran-Boyd hopped up and got his fingertips on Gutierrez' quick chip shot, but the ball rolled over the keeper's hand and over his head, which allowed Gutierrez to push the ball through for the first goal.
“It's a very big win, this game was very important and we're glad to get the three points,” Gutierrez said. “Now, we take it game by game. We just have to stay strong and expect to win.”
The loss could be a motivator, help the Spartans refocus and not take any team’s for granted, Harrison said.
“It could be a good thing — Glendale was,” said Harrison, referring to La Cañada's 3-2 loss to Glendale High on Dec. 28 before it came back and beat the Nitros’ 4-0 the next day. “We just lost our 36-game unbeaten streak in league; now it goes back to zero. … We kept telling them at halftime if you guys don't show up hard to play we're done.”