Needing at least a draw to stay in contention for second place in the West Conference standings, the Santa Clarita Blue Heat women’s soccer team hosted Real Salt Lake Women at The Master’s University on Saturday.
With temperatures flirting in the 105-degree range, the Blue Heat (4-2-3) found it rather difficult to get their offense situated as the Blue Heat never really found a rhythm on either side of the ball, falling to Real Salt Lake 4-0.
“Defensively, they caught us off guard,” said Blue Heat head coach Leonardo Neveleff. “We thought that they were going to wait for us and they did, but they caught us by surprise. But we have too many injuries and I have to give a lot of credit to them, the way they played was very smart. We needed those three points and I think panic played against us.”
In the 23rd minute, the Blue Heat squandered a perfect opportunity to go ahead in the contest as a mad scramble ensued for the ball at about the 10-yard line, but the Blue Heat were unable to capitalize as Real Salt Lake (3-4-1) countered with an attack of their own.
The contest’s opening goal came in the 32nd minute with a pass that was intercepted just above the half court line, was pushed up the left flank and crossed into the middle of the field where Salt Lake’s Hailey North was waiting at the top of the 18-yard box. She struck a ball that landed in the top right corner to put Salt Lake up 1-0.
Striking again right before halftime in the 45th minute, North caught the Blue Heat defense napping as she made a round down the middle of the field, prompting keeper Lauren Brzykcy to come out of goal, but North managed to slip the ball past Brzykcy to net her second goal of the contest.
At halftime Real Salt Lake led 2-0.
Coming out of the half more aggressive, the Blue Heat tried time and time again to connect passes from the back line into the attacking third, but found difficulty getting the ball past Salt Lake’s defense.
With Lauren Sesselmann (calf) and Nickolette Driesse (abductor muscle) out due to previous injuries, Neveleff brought in Taylor Moorehead in the 60th minute to help Chloe Castaneda up top by creating some space and in turn making some timely runs.
But still, Blue Heat could not find the back of the net.
“Nickolette had something wrong with her abductor and Lauren with her calf,” Neveleff said. “So I didn’t want to risk it. We had two games left and they have great careers ahead of them, but their health goes above the team and the game.”
in the 75th minute, tragedy struck again for the Blue Heat as North was one-on-one with Brzykcy. North switched the ball from her right foot to her left and scored her third goal of the game to put Salt Lake up 3-0 and completing the hat trick.
Adding an insurance goal in the 80th minute on a free kick, Madi Garlock collected a ball inside the 18-yard box and put it in the top left corner, giving Real Salt Lake the 4-0 victory.
“The problem was that they did not get the message,” Neveleff said. “We talked about it at halftime, I don’t know what happened. We were playing through the middle and we made some balls and passes that were unnecessary. I was asking for those balls like we did in Canada and today it didn’t work.”
Sitting in third place in the West Conference, SC Blue Heat will play their final match of the season next Sunday, July 15 against the Colorado Pride at The Master’s University at 6 p.m.
“The next three days of practice will be helpful. But no excuses. We need to be better on set pieces and with our tactics,” Neveleff said.