PASADENA — Going into both teams’ Pacific League boys’ soccer opener, Hoover High matched up with host Pasadena, which was yet to lose at home this season.
Pasadena continued to defend its turf Friday afternoon, defeating the Tornadoes, 3-0, on the strength of two late first-half goals. The victory means the Bulldogs are now a perfect seven for seven so far this season at home.
Pasadena (7-1, 1-0 in league) dominated the first half by consistently possessing the ball and mounting an organized attack that caused the vast majority of the action to take place on the Tornadoes’ side of the pitch. However, Hoover (1-3-1, 0-1) held tough until just before the break, when Bulldog Brendon Hildreth scored two goals in the final four minutes to break the game open.
“It was just a matter of time,” Zein said. “They played us very deep in the first 30 minutes, but we were able to dribble down the side and get the first goal. The second goal came quickly enough and then it was all over actually.”
Hildreth’s first goal came in the 36th minute. Pasadena’s Emilio Garcia moved the ball on the right side of the field, drawing two defenders. He then used a beautiful touch with his dribble to get closer and create separation. However, his shot to the upper corner of the near post hit the crossbar and sailed into the air. The rebound came down on the other side of the box, where Hildreth struck it one time into the back of the net.
“We only play with one forward,” Hildreth said, “but [our coach] tells us to stay up, pressure hard and go forward.”
Hildreth, a freshman, got his second goal three minutes later. Once again the Bulldogs attack had pushed the ball deep into the box. For a brief moment, two different Hoover players had a chance to clear the ball, but could not. That allowed Hildreth to get there and hammer the ball into the net from the center of the field in close.
“It was because of the team play that I scored my goals,” Hildreth said. “I just got the rebounds from other players’ shots.”
In the game’s 46th minute, Hoover got off its only shot of the game against the Pasadena defense, but it went wide of the goal mouth. It was Pasadena’s fourth shutout of the year.
“In the first 35 minutes we did well, 0-0,” Hoover Coach Kevin Cadenas said. “I believe [Pasadena] scored two goals in the last five minutes, so it pretty much affected us. After that I guess our boys just went down.”
In both halves, the Bulldogs reached double-digits in shot attempts. The only goal of the second half was an own goal in the 50th minute.
Zein feels that continued success at home is the key to navigating a very strong Pacific League.
“It’s a tough league. Crescenta Valley is very good and Burroughs is very, very good, so two top teams,” Zein said. “So if we can stay in the top three that would be good. We have a chance to not get too far back. So maybe we can get good results at home and try to tie away from home.”