Pasadena soccer stays atop Pacific League
Clutch goaltending, late goal lead Pasadena Bulldogs past Glendale Nitros, 1-0.
After 77 minutes without a score, Pasadena's Oscar Venegas broke the deadlock with a redirect goal to secure a 1-0 victory for the Bulldogs. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer / January 11, 2013)
That theme nearly came to an end Friday when visiting Glendale High had plenty of chances to knock off the Bulldogs in Pacific League play. Not surprisingly, Pasadena broke through a game that had been scoreless for 77 minutes with a redirect goal from Oscar Venegas for the 1-0 victory.
“The breaks have been there,” Pasadena Coach Cherif Zein said of this season, in which his team improved to 9-1, 4-0 in league. “In sports when you have a great team, sometimes you rely on luck and we've been very lucky so far. … The luck has a lot to do with it. Of our nine wins, four or five have come in the last few seconds.”
While Venegas provided the difference late, Zein dubbed his goalie, Jimmy Castillo, the player of the game. Castillo had eight saves on the day with three of them drawing loud cheers from his teammates.
Castillo's most important save of the game came on a Glendale penalty kick in the 47th minute, as he read the Nitros' Leo Magaredchian perfectly to keep the game scoreless.
“I read him clearly,” Castillo said. “Without even looking I knew by his body language where he was going to go and that's what you want with a PK.”
Castillo also ruined two one-on-none opportunities for Glendale (6-6-1, 1-3).
First, he stoned the Nitros' Avo Haroutunian, which came off a perfect through ball from Chamagua Albert in the 22nd minute. Haroutunian was forced into an early shot, as Castillo charged at him and dived to block the low shot.
Albert had a breakaway against Castillo of his own in the 70th minute, but also fell victim to the Pasadena keeper after Castillo repeated what he did to Haroutunian.
“I would say our offense is good, but there's just a little problem with the finishing, just a little problem,” Glendale Coach Artur Aghasyan said. “We're creating a lot of chances, which is a good sign, but we need to finish.”
Pasadena's offense finally rewarded its keeper with a goal off a corner kick in the 77th minute.
Raymundo Alcaraz played the corner in short to Yezid Lopez and the two worked a give and go. The Nitros only committed one defender to the short kick, which gave Alcaraz plenty of time to work his way to the top left corner of Glendale's six-yard box. Alcaraz curved a cross toward Venegas, who stood still and let the ball bounce off his hip and redirect into the right side of the goal.
“I didn't even see the ball that much, I just let it go off my body and it worked out,” Venegas said.
“They outplayed us in the first half, especially the first 20 minutes, we didn't see the ball at all,” said Zein, who saw the victory come with two of his freshmen starters – Jonathan Hernandez and Brendon Hildreth – unavailable because they're in the Olympic Development Program until Monday. “Glendale has a good team, it's just unlucky they fell asleep on that corner.”
Aghasyan said his team made a crucial mistake on the play and paid the price, but believed the goal shouldn't have stood.
“That goal came from a big mistake,” Aghasyan said. “We weren't ready for that and they just took advantage of our mistake, but I would say the goal was handball.”
It ended 11 minutes of frustration for the Bulldogs, who didn't have many quality on-target shots up to that point, after two goal-scoring opportunities were spoiled.
A Bulldogs free kick inside Glendale's box went off the Nitros' wall and the ensuing corner was spoiled in the 66th minute.
Venegas nearly scored in the 72nd minute when a rebound off a shot from Lopez, which drew the Nitros keeper out of position, came right to him. Venegas attempted a quick shot right in front of the empty goal, but Glendale defender Ara Nazaryan was in perfect position and chested it down before clearing it.
The victory keeps Pasadena a perfect 8-0 at home and atop the league standings.
While the Nitros walked away empty handed from Pasadena, Aghasyan felt the game was a good sign his team is continuing to improve.
“Every game they're getting better after their mistakes,” he said. “Pasadena is a great team and to play them to 1-0 shows a lot.”