On the heels of suffering their first lost of the season, the Santa Clarita Blue Heat Football Club hosted the United Women’s Soccer West Conference’s first-place Calgary Foothills at The Master’s University on Sunday.
To start the game, the Blue Heat (4-1-2) came out a little flat due to playing two games in three days — they played LA Galaxy OC on Friday — but finished strong, scoring both goals in the second half for a 2-0 win.
“I have to give credit to Galaxy because they are an amazing team,” coach Leonardo Neveleff said. “We were able to recover today. Playing two games in three days is not easy, so I have to give all the credit to the girls because they left it all out on the field.”
Throughout the first half, the Blue Heat were on the wrong side of the possession game as the Foothills (6-1-1) dominated the ball, pressing high and taking their time by making runs through the middle and right side of the pitch.
“Well, obviously, they are tough competition so we knew we kind of had to come out really disciplined and on our toes and tackle every opportunity that we got,” Blue Heat right-forward Hayley Gonzales said. “But we went out there and we did what we needed to do to get the win.”
Thanks to some stout defending and quick thinking, the Blue Heat back line kept shutting down every run and intercept almost every through ball that was sent near their goal.
In the 20th minute, Sophia Cortes gathered a pass and fell to the ground inside the penalty box in what seemed to be a clear foul by a Foothills defender.
Additionally, the Blue Heat were able to get three back-to-back-to-back corner kicks in the 25th and 26th minutes, but were unable to capitalize on the opportunities.
At halftime the game was tied 0-0.
Coming out in the second half with more energy and fight, the Blue Heat were able to maintain the ball for longer periods of time, by creating some opportunities thanks to Kasandra Massey’s diagonal runs and pinpoint passes getting the ball behind the Foothills’ defense line more frequently.
In the 60th minute, the persistent runs and passing came together as Massey crossed a ball to Hayley Gonzales, on the right side of the goalie box, who collected herself and quickly hammered home the games first goal putting the Blue Heat ahead 1-0.
“We had a game plan and it takes a little while to break down someone’s defense, kind of read them and get to know them and see where you can kind of exploit them in the back,” Gonzales said. “I spread them out a little bit and created some space and Kasandra sent that through ball and I read it, did what the coaches wanted me to do and I scored.”
As if there was ever any pressure on him, Neveleff let out a big sigh of relief after the goal by Gonzales.
“She has a great stamina and we knew that she was going to be a key player for us this game because all the coaches studied their games and we knew that they were going to attack on the left flank and we asked for effort and commitment towards those balls,” Neveleff said.
With the 1-0 lead, the Blue Heat started to slow the pace of the game down by possessing the ball for longer periods of time by being technically and fundamentally sound on both sides of the ball.
Then, in the 88th minute, the Blue Heat struck again.
On a free kick just outside the 18-yard mark, Yadira Toraya crossed a ball into the penalty area and found a soaring Yolanda Albalat in the air who headed home the insurance goal to put the Blue Heat ahead 2-0, for good.
Avenging the first loss of the season, the Blue Heat returned the favor by handing the Foothills their first loss of the season and moves within five points of first place in the West Conference.
SC Blue Heat will continue play and look to close the gap in the West Conference as they will fly to Canada and take on the Calgary Foothills in a rematch at the Calgary Soccer Center at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.