The Canyon boys soccer team found itself trailing halfway through the first half against Harvard-Westlake in its second game of the day in the Hart Varsity Showcase at The Master’s University on Thursday.
The Cowboys’ effort and energy never diminished for the entirety of the game, even with players playing out of position, as they went goal-for-goal with the visitors and in the final minutes capitalized to escape with a 3-2 come-from-behind win.
Three different Cowboys scored as Jeremy Saldana and Isaac Salinas scored the equalizers and Jarrett Reeser scored the game-winning goal.
“We played with a lot of heart, especially in the second half,” said Canyon head coach Robert Benavidez. “A lot of bodies are banged up from this morning’s game and nagging injuries throughout the season. We had kids playing in different roles that normally aren’t accustomed to it, we had kids on vacation because of the holiday season, but just the heart to come out and battle for 70 minutes, that’s what we need to do every game out.”
Harvard-Westlake went on the offensive from the opening whistle, possessing the ball to try and find a weakness in the Canyon (6-4 overall) defense, but with Tyler Mora and Jeremy Saldana pressuring the ball and playing very aggressive defense kept turning the ball over in their defensive side of the pitch.
About eight minutes into the game, Saldana stole a Wolverines pass in their territory, crossed into Reeser who got a healthy touch on the ball, but the shot hit the post.
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Halfway through the first half, Harvard-Westlake scored on a counterattack to take a 1-0 lead.
Pushing numbers up, with under 10 minutes to go in the half, the Cowboys tied the game at 1-1. After Reeser dribbled the ball into the Wolverines’ penalty box, the visitors’ goalkeeper came off his line to shut down the attack. Reeser took a shot, but it was blocked. From about 25-yards out, on the rebound, Saldana took an uncontested shot to tie the game.
“He’s kind of felt the pressure of not being able to put the ball in the back of the net on a consistent basis and he has just kept battling and made it happen,” Benavidez said of Saldana.
The celebration didn’t last too long as Harvard-Westlake (2-2) scored it’s second goal just before the halftime whistle to lead 2-1 at the half.
It didn’t take long for the Cowboys to respond as Salinas tied the game at 2-2 as his shot bounced off of the post and into the side netting just two minutes into the second half of play.
“I don’t know, I felt like I was at the right place at the right time and my team did what we needed to,” Salinas said.
With the momentum swinging in the Cowboys favor, Harvard-Westlake seemed to be running out of gas, while the Cowboys just kept attacking.
With under 10 minutes to go in the game, Saldana and Reeser teamed up for the game’s winning goal. Saldana won a ball just above midfield and with Reeser sprinting towards the right flank made a timely through pass that Reeser collected just at the edge of the 18-yard box.
Reeser collected the ball with his right, made a move to his left and hammered home a left-footer that was never in doubt for the game-sealing goal.
“My dad always tells me that big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games,” Reeser said. “We won our first game and I knew that being the player that I am, I needed to come up big for my team. I knew I needed to make something happen and I went out and did it.”
Canyon goalkeeper Kevin Newlands made a couple of big saves in the final minutes of the game to preserve the win for the Cowboys.
“Hats off to Harvard (Westlake), they are a great program and put a lot of pressure on us and were constantly moving,” Benavidez said after the win. “At the end of the day, we were ahead for what three minutes, but that’s all you need at the end of the game of soccer. I joke with people that you play an 80–minute game, and it’s 0-0 in the 79th minute and if you score in the 79th, you still win 1-0.”
The Cowboys defeated San Fernando 2-0 in their first game of the Hart Varsity Showcase. Reeser and Chris Amaya were the two goal-scorers for the Cowboys.
Hart 3, Poly (Sun Valley) 0
In the second game of the day for the Indians, Nicholas Woll scored two goals and Cameron Castañeda scored the third at the Hart Varsity Showcase at College of the Canyons on Thursday.
Hart 3, Moorpark 0
Opening up the Hart Varsity Showcase with a win, the Indians scored all three goals in the second half as Lawrence Luna scored twice and Anthony Luna the third goal for the Indians.
Hart improves to 6-0 overall on the season recording its fifth-straight shut out victory.
“I think we are working very well as a group,” said Hart head coach Adonay Jovel. “We score a lot of goals and created a lot of chances. I’m excited that we have a strong attacking team.”