With every loss that a team suffers comes opportunities to learn, grow and adapt for future games. That time is now for the College of the Canyons men’s soccer team after a 6-1 non-conference home loss to Oxnard College on Tuesday.
“We have a lot of learning to do,” said College of the Canyons head coach Philip Marcellin. “We’ve completely regressed in the last two weeks. We had a really strong showing in the Santa Barbara match and had a poor result in the end and mentally, we are not where we need to be.
“Fortunately for them, we are going to either have a lot more heart in the next couple of weeks or we are going to have not many players left around here.”
Things started off well for the Cougars in the game’s opening minutes as freshman and Saugus graduate forward Dylan Sullivan controlled a pass down the right sideline, going one-on-one with Oxnard defender Noah Dollenmayer.
With the 6-foot-3-plus Dollenmayer towering over him, Sullivan juked right and crossed a ball into the goalie’s box that ended up going out of bounds after two Cougar players whiffed on their shots.
The mood changed in the ninth minute when Oxnard (7-2 overall) cleared a Canyons corner kick and countered, sending multiple players forward. Ultimately, Condors midfielder Jose Olea wound up putting a shot on goal, but Canyons goalkeeper Kian Bensend made a last-second save and blocked the shot, leading to an Oxnard corner kick.
Off the corner kick, Oxnard crossed the ball into the box and lit up the scoreboard as Jose Suazo headed in the game’s first goal to take a 1-0 lead.
In the 17th minute, Canyons had an opportunity to tie the game as Sullivan found a streaking Brandon Umana down the middle of the pitch. Umana did a good job of controlling the ball in between two Oxnard defenders, but took a shot from about 25 or 30 yards out that was easily scooped up by Oxnard’s goalie.
A few minutes later, the Condors flipped the game on its head by scoring three goals in the next 10 minutes.
Luis Juarez was the lucky recipient of two of them as he scored back-to-back goals in the 21th and 26th minute, while Carlos Gomez netted the other in the 31st minute to take a 4-0 lead.
With six minutes remaining in the half, Canyons (1-7-1) got on the board to prevent the shutout as defender Denislav Gavrailov crossed a ball to Sullivan in Oxnard territory. Sullivan collected the ball at the edge of the 18-yard box, switched the ball to his right foot and fired a shot past the Oxnard goalie.
Getting a goal back, Canyons was reinvigorated with some life as Frank Ornelas and Jake Erazo did a good job of leading a counterattack off an Oxnard free kick. The opportunity went awry as Erazo went streaking down the field only to collide with two defenders just before the halftime whistle.
“For the most part, if you watch (Frank) and Dylan and their work rate, if we had eight or nine more guys that worked at that pace all the time, it would be a whole different story,” Marcellin said. “We have been super pleased with both Dylan and Frank as far as their intensity, mentality and work ethic. We just need more guys to have those on par.”
Coming out of the gates with a renewed sense of fight in the second half, Marcellin changed the lineup, inserting Jacob Tomaszewski at forward and moved Sullivan down to try to create some different opportunities.
It worked early as Canyon pressed higher and harder than ever before in the game. In the 56th minute, it almost paid off as Tomaszewski attempted a shot on a 50-50 ball as the Oxnard goalkeeper came off his line and was blocked. The rebound landed at Sullivan’s feet, but his shot went inches wide of the goal.
“You put guys out there that are that you know have good character and are going to make the effort,” Marcellin said. “Regardless, if they are the best guy for the job or the right guy for the job, if you know what I mean. This is a group that has so much potential, but it lasts for about 30 seconds and then it goes to interesting places.”
Throughout the second half, Canyons did a good job of turning back any and every Oxnard attack or counterattack until the final six minutes of play when they succumbed and surrendered two late goals.
Canyons has one more non-conference game against LA Mission College at 3 p.m. on Friday before opening up Western State Athletic Conference, South Division play at Citrus College at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
“This team has great potential,” Marcellin said. “My fear right now is, in our conference the teams aren’t that stellar tactically and technically, but they are very athletic, hardworking, intense and combative and we haven’t been able to match that intensity. Clearly tonight, we didn’t match that intensity and look what happened. There’s a lot of really good programs that I think we could have gotten better results if we had a better mentality, so it’s just about pushing those buttons and figuring it out.”