Valencia soccer clinches playoff seed, beats Canyon, 2-0 

Braeden Barbula (6) of Canyon and Jordan Cardenas (18) of Valencia fright for the ball at midfield at Valencia High on Tuesday, 012423. Dan Watson/The Signal

Valencia Vikings boys’ soccer has hit its stride after winning its third straight game, a 2-0 home win over the Canyon Cowboys on Tuesday. 

The Vikings (6-5-4, 5-3-2) went over a month without a win but now find themselves headed back to the postseason, currently sitting in the second seed of a competitive Foothill League. 

Valencia struck instantly in the first 10 minutes with style. Freshman Henry Sarkisyan sent a ball from midfield into the box, where senior Rami Maroun used a near-scorpion kick to rocket the ball past Canyon keeper Roman Johnson. 

“We definitely played with intensity because we know Canyon comes out with a lot of aggressiveness,” Maroun said. “I think we handled it really well.” 

Canyon (4-7-1, 3-5-1) nearly evened the score minutes later. Cowboys forward Marlon Tadeo stole the ball from a Valencia defender looking to fire the ball downfield. Tadeo, with a clean look, fired a shot inches above the crossbar and Valencia held on to the 1-0 lead going into halftime. 

Senior Azael Jovel made a deep push down the right sideline with the ball in the 55th minute. Jovel fired in a cross directly to Sarkisyan, who netted the goal to take a comfortable 2-0 lead. 

Azael Jovel (11) of Valencia collides with Canyon goalkeeper Roman Johnson in the first half at Valencia High on Tuesday, 012423. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Vikings knew Canyon wouldn’t roll over and kept fighting. Valencia won the battle of possession but the Cowboys progressed in their attacks throughout the second half. 

Tadeo had one more good look in one of the last plays of the game. A ball fired in from midfield took a few deflections and somehow landed right in front of the Canyon forward, who was just in front of the goal. At the 78th minute, Tadeo blasted a shot on target but Vikings keeper Quinton Norsworthy reached just high enough to make the save. 

Defender Gilberto Roque (19) of Canyon and Nadeem Maroun (9) wrestle for the ball near the goal at Valencia High on Tuesday, 012423. Dan Watson/The Signal

“I felt that our bench players really stepped up today,” Vikings coach Jose Villafan said. “I think they were able to match the intensity and still be difference makers, keeping the same level of play. Everyone contributed and everyone played hard. So, at the end of the day, that’s what we want. So, I’ve been preaching that to them all year and I’m just really happy that they’re buying into it. And especially right now so we can finish the season strong.” 

The Cowboys’ shots kept inching closer to a score but Valencia held on for its second shutout of the season. 

“The energy was there,” said Canyon coach Robert Benavidez. “I thought we played for 80 minutes. We had some kids out because of injuries. So other kids got opportunities and they stepped up. Unfortunately, with this level of competition, you have to take advantage of the opportunities that you get.” 

Canyon will have to wait another season to break out of their Valencia rut. The Cowboys have now gone five seasons without a win over their Foothill League rivals. 

Villafan has earned a trip to the playoffs in his first year as a varsity head coach. Valencia has leaped up the tight standings over the last weeks and now are a lock for the Division 3 postseason. For Maroun, the biggest difference maker has been communication. 

Mario Hernandez (13) of Canyon and Azael Jovel (11) of Valencia go for the ball at midfield at Valencia High on Tuesday, 012423. Dan Watson/The Signal

“You could just tell the communication that we brought in right away was just unbelievable,” Maroun said. “We just keep talking to each other. We know where we are. It’s getting us wins.” 

That communication as of late has sparked the team’s play on the field as well as the team’s confidence. 

“I think the team morale across the board was really low,” Villafan said. “We just all really came together and connected after our Saugus game. I told them let’s forget about wins and losses. Everyone’s been playing since they’re 5 or 6 years old. So, nothing’s gonna change today, you’re already the player that you are. The things that you can change are: your attitude, your energy, your effort, and if we do that and just work to work on the simple things, things are gonna fall into place.” 

Joaquin Bodero (24) of Canyon and Jordan Cardenas (18)chase the ball at Valencia High on Tuesday, 012423. Dan Watson/The Signal

Valencia has the chance to finish in the top three of the Foothill League for the fifth consecutive season.  

The Vikings return home on Thursday for a senior night matchup with Golden Valley at 5 p.m. 

Canyon controls its own destiny but will have some tough opponents to fight through in order to secure a playoff spot. The Cowboys will take the week off before heading to Hart on Tuesday at 3:15 p.m. 

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