Down a goal with 23 minutes left, Valencia Vikings boys’ soccer stormed back into the game at Saugus.
The Vikings netted the equalizer in the second half thanks to a header from junior Nico Hovsepian. It was Hovsepian’s second goal of the day off of a throw-in from Kenneth Yoo.
Valencia never felt satisfied with the tie and, with just minutes to go in the game, the Vikings nearly found their go-ahead goal. Junior Andres Alonzo was fouled in the box on a breakaway where he would’ve had a solid look on target if he brought it down.
Alonzo ended up getting his goal via a penalty kick to lift the Vikings to the 3-2 victory.
Saugus (2-5-4, 2-3-3) got its first goal from senior Gabriel Cermeno in the 17th minute to tie the game before getting a penalty kick goal of their own from Santiago Veizaga to jump up 2-1 in the first minute of the second half.
Vikings coach Jose Villafan believed the goal didn’t change anything as he let his players play their game.
“They go up 2-1 and we let the players get into a rhythm and try to be a little more offensive,” Villafan said in a phone interview. “It didn’t change the game plan we had. We tried to pressure them on the way out, pressure them in the lower third, the style and game plan didn’t have to change, the intensity had to change.”
A Foothill League battle with Saugus will always be a physical matchup. Villafan believes his team was ready for this go-around with the Centurions and commended the replacement officials.
“We were prepared for a very physical battle,” Villafan said. “I think the ref did a good job at keeping control of the game. He never let anyone get out of hand. Usually the physical battle at Saugus is intense, but the ref did a good job of maintaining the tempo. It could’ve been anyone’s match. It just came down to who wanted it more at the end.”
The Vikings (5-5-2, 4-4-2) went all out on defense to hold off the Centurions during the final few minutes of play. Saugus came close to finding another equalizer but was turned away by the Vikings’ backline and keeper Gary “Trey” Williamson.
“Trey had some really good saves and it was one of his best performances yesterday,” Villafan said. “Defensively we were pretty composed. Saugus has a seven and 11 that are very quick so we made sure to cover them. We made proper runs against their dangerous plays.”
The Vikings typically get their scoring from senior Jordan Cardenas and sophomore Henry Sarkisyan. The two still played well on Tuesday but Villafan was thrilled to see other players getting involved on his offensively deep team.
“Henry and JC were threats at every moment of the game,” Villafan said. “Both of them had a really good match. The boys are spreading the wealth and everyone on this team has grown. As the season progresses, we’re gaining confidence. The beauty of this team is that anyone can score.”
Valencia’s win puts the team in second place in the Foothill League. However, the Vikings are the only top five team in the league with a negative goal differential.
The Vikings are still in a great spot moving forward. The team is already 3-0-1 against league opponents that they’ll face in the final stretch of the regular season.
Saugus also controls its own destiny and two more wins may be enough to get the team into the postseason for the third straight year.
Both teams return home for Foothill League play on Thursday as Valencia hosts Castaic at 5 p.m. while Saugus welcomes West Ranch at 3:15 p.m.
“We’re definitely looking to come out and win the next four matches,” Villafan said. “We’re going to do everything we can to stay in control of our own destiny. We have to stay composed and let the result be dictated by our performance, not by someone else’s performance.”