Heading into Thursday’s Foothill League boys soccer game at Canyon High School, West Ranch found itself searching for that elusive first league win, while Canyon was trying to stay in the hunt for the league title.
West Ranch junior midfielder Niko Marquez, who along with senior midfielder Jacob Gendein returned from a one-game absence, used his pace, movement and split-second passes to establish control of the midfield.
With the full complement of players and a great couple days of practice, the Wildcats outlasted the Cowboys with goals by Ryan Verbeck and Daniel Bebekien to come away with a 2-0 shutout road win.
“I’m going to chalk it up to the way that they have practiced the last few practices,” said West Ranch head coach Mike Kane. “They have really put in a lot of effort and it shows.”
Playing off of their midfielders, West Ranch (4-7-2 overall, 1-4-1 Foothill League) had its first scoring opportunity eight minutes into the match as Bebekien stole a pass at the edge of the Cowboys’ 18-yard box, but his shot was blocked.
A couple minutes later, Wildcats’ Owen Strunk attempted another long-range shot, but his shot went just wide right of the goal.
Canyon responded with swift counterattacks with Tyler Mora, Jeremy Saldana and Jarrett Reeser leading the charge, but the Wildcats sniffed the attacks out.
In the 21st minute, Saldana and West Ranch’s Elijah Beaubien got tangled up and Saldana exited the game with an apparent eye injury and never returned.
Klayton Spencer came on for Saldana and on the restart, got a touch on a cross and delivered the Cowboys’ first shot on goal of the game as West Ranch goalkeeper Eduardo Corretjer made the save.
“It changed a little of the dynamics, he was playing pretty good in the first half,” said Canyon head coach Robert Benavidez. “Everyone has to deal with injuries and that’s why you carry 20 kids or so and a kid has a moment to step up.”
Pushing players up, with two minutes left in the first half, Verbeck tried his luck from about 25-yards out. Misjudging the shot, Canyon goalkeeper Kevin Newlands attempted to catch the ball, but it bounced off his hands and crossed the goal line.
“Our team was playing well, we were moving the ball around,” Verbeck said of his goal. “Daniel (Bebekien) looked for the shot, he didn’t have it and passed it off to me. It was an unselfish play and I just took the shot.”
Ethan Durfee started in between the post for the West Ranch in the second half with no drop off in play. Two minutes into the half, he was put to the test with a free-kick by Jacob Reyes, but was able to punch the ball over the crossbar.
The Cowboys wouldn’t be so lucky on the ensuing Wildcats free-kick.
In the 48th minute, Bebekien lined up for a direct free-kick from 30 or so yards out. Sending a curving ball towards the Cowboys goal, Bebekien’s shot was true and landed in the top left corner to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.
“He practices hard, has a good attitude and we enjoy having him,” Kane said. “Those shots are pretty impressive.”
The Wildcats continued to pressure and almost got the goals back off of two corner kicks in the 54th minute and again in the 56th minute with headers by Isaac Salinas and Jeremy Bretran, but Durfee was able to save both shots to preserve the shut-out win.
“The ball just didn’t bounce our way,” Benavidez said. “We had a couple of chances that we thought the ball was going in and it didn’t go in. You can’t take anything for granted in this league, it’s who shows up and plays. They played with energy, obviously, they were looking for their first win and we were looking to stay in the fight and the ball didn’t go our way.
“We had a couple of chances in the first half, we just didn’t finish them. A couple of chances in the second half, we thought they were going in, bouncing around and they went wide.”
Both teams are in action on Tuesday, West Ranch hosts Saugus at 3:15 p.m., while Canyon hosts Golden Valley at 5 p.m.