Just three games into the 2019 Avocado West League boys soccer season, the group of six that some had dubbed the “super league” is in early jeopardy of becoming a party of two. With Wednesday victories, Torrey Pines and La Costa Canyon solidified their 1-2 positions in the league standings and now turn their attention to a head-to-head Friday match-up at Torrey Pines. Kick off is slated for 6 p.m.
Coach Andy Hargreaves’ Torrey Pines side, two-time defending Avocado West titlists and ranked No. 1 in the section power rankings, will bring a 8-2-4 overall mark and a perfect 3-0 league ledger into Friday’s contest after recording a workmanlike, 3-0, decision over host Canyon Crest Wednesday afternoon.
Senior Mike Mines was the offensive star for the Falcons against CCA. He assisted on the game’s first goal, collecting his own rebound along the end line and slotting a pass to fellow senior Denzel Zepeda for the close. Mines accounted for the next two himself, both on penalty kicks. The first PK came in first half stoppage time after he was fouled in the box. The second, with 36:10 remaining in the game, occurred after senior Carsen Nahum was pulled down inside the area. Hargreaves was pleased with what he saw from his club.
“I always felt we were comfortable and in control,” said Hargreaves. “I thought the penalty kick just before halftime kind of took the wind out of their sails and when we got the third goal it was game over.
“To come in here and have that kind of possession and control was surprising. CCA is a good team and might have had a bit of an off day.”
A few hours later, La Costa Canyon moved to 7-3-5/2-0-1 with a come-from-behind, 2-1, triumph over visiting San Marcos, the defending CIF Open Division champion. Coach Craig Dean’s Mavericks, who fell to San Marcos in that CIF final last March, are currently No. 7 in the CIF power rankings but figure to be moving up that ladder quickly.
Wednesday night, despite a forceful performance, they barely escaped with the win. Coach Matt Hidalgo’s Knight’s hit the scoreboard first with an unorthodox first half goal. After getting through a missed tackle, junior Jarek Kitchen lofted an arching shot from nearly 30 yards out that found a perfect spot behind surprised LCC goalkeeper Garrett Sevison. San Marcos took the one-goal advantage into halftime.
The Mavericks kept the heavy pressure coming in the second half and finally broke through with senior Jake Aaknes heading home the equalizer 20 minutes in. It appeared the two teams were on a course for overtime when senior Gio Villasenor netted a cross from senior Nick Ciepley in the final minute. Before Aaknes’ game-tying tally, Dean’s mind was wandering to the difficulties his crew has had finishing in the final third.
“This was like so many of our early games where 90% of the time we were in their half but couldn’t find the net” said Dean afterward. “Tonight, we didn’t create a ton of great chances but we were knocking the ball around, moving it and forcing the action.
“When we play like this and things aren’t happening, I just tell the team to keep pushing and eventually they’ll start dropping. This was not the best win we’ve ever had but we’ll take it.”
So now, it will be a familiar storyline Torrey Pines squaring off against La Costa Canyon with the top of the table on the line. Since the Falcons joined the Avocado West two years ago, they have posted a 3-2-1 record against the Mavericks. The most recent skirmish between the pair came in last year’s CIF Open Division semi-finals when LCC rubbed out a two-goal deficit en route to upsetting top-seeded Torrey, 3-2, in overtime. This one, like any match-up between this duo, has the potential to be an instant classic.
“This will be a huge game—it’s going to be a battle,” smiled Dean. “They always come out fast and if you get caught, they’ll hurt you quick. As long as we can match their intensity and not concede anything early, we’ll be fine.” Hargreaves knows what’s at stake and thinks some of the little edges might determine the outcome.
“Whoever wins this one has a very good chance of winning the league,” he said. “LCC is very senior heavy, strong and physical and we’re a little more technical, maybe—it should be a great game.
“A lot of it will just come down to whoever comes out confident. Hopefully, having the home field advantage will give us a boost.”