Two Foothill League soccer teams kicked off the Silverlakes Winter Classic, a single-elimination tournament, at the Silverlakes Sports Complex in Norco on Friday.
Saugus and Golden Valley each had two games, with the Centurions finishing the day first. The team went 1-1 with a 3-0 loss to Santiago before accomplishing a 4-0 win over La Sierra.
With 10 minutes left in the game, there was no score between Saugus and Santiago. The Cents had created scoring opportunities in the first half but couldn’t capitalize. In the second half, Santiago was able to notch the first of its three goals on a penalty kick.
After the goal, Saugus took a more proactive approach to its offense.
“We were pushing up a lot more,” said coach Seth Groller. “Trying to make things happen. We did have another opportunity where it was looking like we made the right call but it leaves you a little bit more vulnerable in the back.”
Santiago took advantage of the vulnerability and scored its second goal with four minutes remaining in the game. Soon after, Saugus tried to draw a penalty but Santiago received a non-call and saw an opportunity for its final goal.
The Cents were able to recover for their game against La Sierra, in which they scored two goals in the first half courtesy of Dionicio Flores and Connor Claborn.
“We asked them at halftime when it 2-0, we just want a better second half than the first half and I really feel like the players gave us that,” Groller said. “They stepped it up and kept the pressure on and played well.”
Saugus displayed its scoring depth with two more goals from Jason Nakoud and Blake Fusano in the second half to close out the game.
“We’ve had years in the past where we had the top goal-scorer by five or 10 goals, like he for sure is our goal scorer and all (this) season I feel like we’ve been distributing the goals,” Groller said.
“Different guys are stepping up and it’s not like we have that one forward, we’re going to play the through ball and he’s going to beat everyone with his speed and score. We’re developing the play and creating opportunities for ourselves.”
Due to the first-game loss, the Centurions are ineligible for the championship bracket, but Groller said he is still pleased with the experience at the tournament so far and the exposure to other teams from the CIF Los Angeles City Section and the Inland Empire that it provides.
Saugus next plays Coachella Valley today. The Mighty Arabs and Centurions only met once, when Coachella Valley came out with a 4-0 win in the 2009 playoffs.
“We definitely remember from playing them then was a lot of skill, a lot of speed and moved the ball very well and had that physical component as well,” Groller said.
The Cents are scheduled to begin Foothill League play on Jan. 7 at Valencia at 6:30 p.m.