Donning black and yellow jerseys during a cold night game, Canyon boys soccer took on Simi Valley, the No. 7 team in California according to maxpreps.com, at Canyon High School on Thursday night.
Canyon was able to take the lead early but eventually succumbed to Simi Valley in the closing seconds to drop the non-league game 2-1.
“If we play for 80 minutes we can compete with anybody,” said Canyon head coach Robert Benavidez. “Like I told the boys, sometimes you get one or two opportunities and that’s the difference in a match. You can’t have letdowns, but you have to play from the opening whistle to the closing whistle.”
Simi Valley began the game pressing high, putting pressure on Canyon’s defense and almost catching them off-guard and scoring a goal in the opening minutes.
Canyon midfielder Drew Leskin and Robert Franco headed the Cowboys’ attack down the left side of the pitch in the first half with both players threatening to score with their finesse and passing ability.
Eighteen minutes into the game on a throw-in, Canyon (4-6-2 overall, 2-0 in Foothill League) almost surrendered the game’s first goal as a Simi Valley defender heaved a ball into the middle of the penalty box. No one, including goalkeeper Patrick Brayman, moved towards the ball as it bounced just wide-right goal post.
Five minutes later, Harrison Davis found himself in the middle of the field in Simi Valley territory with room to maneuver. Drawing the attention of a defender, Davis passed the ball out wide to Joe Lucia who made an overlapping run into space. Davis made the Simi Valley defender commit to him, giving Lucia even more space, and played the ball to Lucia.
Lucia took a touch and put the ball in the net, giving Canyon the 1-0 lead.
“I toe-poked it in, but a goal is a goal at this point,” Lucia said. “I’ve been increasing my chances every game and as soon as I saw the open net and no one was on me and I took the open shot.”
Just before the end of the half, Simi Valley’s Alec Silva was able to get behind the defense and tie the game at 1-1.
Heading into the half, the game was tied 1-1.
Trying to pick his team back up, nine minutes into the second, Israel Miranda took a blistering shot at the top of the 18-yard box, but the shot landed in the Simi Valley goalkeeper’s chest for the save.
Canyon was able to stave off the Pioneers attack thanks to lucky bounces and blown shots until the closing seconds of the game.
With just seconds to go in the game, Simi Valley (13-1, 2-0 in Coastal Canyon League) lined up for a free kick from about 25 yards away.
Curving a ball past the Canyon wall, Tony Reyes kicked a screamer into the side netting to hand Canyon its second loss in as many games.
“Going into the game we knew Simi was good,” said defender Shane Kelly. “They just pressured hard in the midfield, didn’t give us any room and they were on us with every touch.”
Canyon resumes Foothill League play against Hart at Hart at 3 p.m. on Tuesday.
“We just have to prepare for Hart and treat it like a battle from start to finish,” Kelly said. “We can’t die down in the last couple minutes of each half like we did today. Every minute we are on the field it’s 100 percent.”