College of the Canyons men’s soccer opened up Western State Conference South Division play against Citrus College on Tuesday at Canyons’ home field.
Starting the game off a little flat-footed, Canyons (4-4-2 overall, 1-0 in WSCSD) was able to score two second-half goals by sophomore striker Ivan Monreal and freshman defender Jake Erazo to win the game 2-0.
“We kept a clean sheet and we didn’t give up a lot of clear chances on goal,” said Canyons head coach Philip Marcellin. “We created a ton of chances and their goalkeeper made a lot of great saves. They are the defending conference champs and it was up to us to take points away from them.”
Canyons’ first opportunity came just seven minutes into the game as midfielder Justin Marquez spotted a streaking Jorge Rojas down the left side of the pitch. His shot was blocked but set up the first corner of the game.
Time and time again, Marquez kept trying to find Rojas as well as Andres Lozano up top, but thanks to some nifty goalkeeping by Citrus’ goalie Christian Arevalo, the opportunities never resulted in any goals.
“I have a lot of good players around me and today we were able to perform together as a unit,” Marquez said. “The more we play as a team the better we play.”
Keeping Citrus (0-6-3, 0-1) on its heels, Lozano, Rojas and Cesar Dominguez took turns making runs down the flanks and through the middle of the pitch trying to catch the Citrus defenders napping.
With about 20 minutes left in the first half, Lozano was able to get behind the Owl’s back line through the middle of the pitch finding himself one-on-one with the Citrus goalkeeper.
As a last-ditch effort, Citrus defender Trevor Romero reached out and grabbed a hold of Lozano’s jersey bringing him down to the ground.
Being shown a red card, Romero was sent off, leaving Citrus down a man the rest of the way.
Not capitalizing on the scoring opportunity, Dominguez’s free-kick went wide left of the goal and Canyons ended the half level with the visitors.
Coming out of halftime determined, Marcellin made a couple of substitutions and none more clutch than forward Monreal.
Putting high pressure on Citrus’ defenders, Dominguez gathered a ball on the left side of the pitch. Crossing the ball into the middle of the 18-yard box, Monreal was waiting to tap in the game’s first goal.
“I knew they were down a man so we knew we were going to put the high pressure and not let them breathe,” Monreal said. “They were down so we had to keep pushing.”
Keeping up with the high pressure, Canyons centerback Jake Erazo found himself in an unfamiliar position with about 25 minutes left in the game.
Standing alone in the 18-yard box after a failed counterattack, Erazo collected the ball and used his right foot to put the ball past the Citrus keeper in the left corner putting Canyons up 2-0.
“I saw the defense step up and I was surprised that I was onside and I saw the keeper off his line and I shot,” Erazo said. “I was honestly surprised I made it.”
The victory marked Canyons’ first conference-opening win in program history.
“That was the first time we won the conference opener, but it’s the first time we ever took three points in the opener,” Marcellin said. “We have had a lot of draws and tough losses and we have put ourselves in good position, but that’s the first time we got three points.”
The Cougars continue their conference slate against Glendale on Friday at 5:30 p.m at College of the Canyons.