LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE — Ties are becoming an all too familiar and all too unsettling occurrence for the St. Francis High soccer team.
On Wednesday at Friedman Field, host St. Francis once again tied its opponent, resulting in its third draw in four games played this year. This one, against Ganesha, finished at 1-1 and, with the Golden Knights outplaying the visitors for long stretches and having a chance to win for the first time with a late penalty kick, coach Glen Appels was clearly unsettled once more.
With under seven minutes to play and the score knotted at 1, Ganesha’s Steve Caudillo dragged down Benjamin Gabella in the box and St. Francis (0-1-3) was awarded a penalty kick. Senior Christian Green, who anchored the defense all game long, took the shot for the Golden Knights, but Giants goalkeeper Christian Olivarez launched himself airborne to his left and turned away Green’s attempt.
“Keepers have to guess the right way, and [Olivarez] just guessed the right way that time,” Green said.
The rebound came down in the box, but the follow up shot sailed over the goal.
“We got down to a penalty kick and a rebound on the penalty kick and we couldn’t put them away,” Appels said. “We just talked to the boys, we’ve just got to learn to finish the game. When the ball is out in front we just need to kick it in. It’s about that simple.”
After that, neither squad came very close to scoring and the game ended without a winner or loser, a fact significant for Ganesha (0-3-1), which had dropped its first three games of the young season.
“We’ve been solid defensively,” said Appels, whose team has been limited to three goals this season. “It’s been typical of us that we’ve played terrific defense, we’ve had good possession, we keep the ball forward, we’ve just got to kick it in.”
The first half was scoreless, thanks in no small part to the play of Olivarez, who was rock solid all match, protecting the goal and organizing the defense in front of him, and St. Francis goalkeeper Luca Coppola, who had less to do but still came up big when needed.
In the 25th minute, Ganesha’s Raul Diaz broke behind the defense, coming down the left side with only Coppola left between the goal and him. The Golden Knights senior closed the distance and smothered the ball at Diaz’ feet just as he went for the shot, thereby absorbing the contact, holding on to the ball and keeping the game scoreless.
The same scenario played out in the fourth minute of the second half as Diaz once again broke free coming down the left side and, once again, Coppola went down for the ball just as it was shot. However, this time the ball popped away from the St. Francis netminder and dropped directly in front of Jose Saldana, who kicked it into the open goal mouth for a 1-0 advantage.
“I was ready for the first shot, but I wasn’t expecting a rebound. I don’t think our team was expecting a rebound either,” Coppola said. “We’re used to me keeping the ball in my hands, but this one got away from me.”
All game long, St. Francis never solved the question of how to get a ball past Olivarez, a junior playing his first year at the varsity level, but, luckily for the Golden Knights, one of his teammates did.
Midway through the second half, Golden Knight Frankie Veiga, who was a sparkplug on offense after the break, passed the ball to Reed Izumi, whose ensuing shot hit the bar and came back into the field of play. At that point, Giants senior Carlos Loreto, who was facing the goal mouth, swung his leg at the airborne ball and one-timed it straight past Olivarez for an own-goal and a fortunate equalizer for St. Francis.
“It feels like a loss, to be honest,” Coppola said.
St. Francis plays next on Friday at home against Chatsworth as part of continuing play in the Ralph Brandt tournament.
“We were on the doorstep and knocking, but we couldn’t get it open. It has been the story of our season,” Appels said.