First published in the Jan. 13 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
With the nonleague schedule over, it was time for Rio Hondo League boys’ soccer action to start in earnest as three-time defending champion La Cañada High opened its league slate at South Pasadena.
It came down to the last touch of the ball as the Spartans salvaged a 3-3 draw to thwart what had been a resilient comeback by the host Tigers Friday afternoon.
“It was a very complicated game, as it is always here,” La Cañada coach Bruno Costa said.
La Cañada’s Tyler Na-Nakornpanom was at the penalty spot, his team trailing by one five minutes into stoppage time. The senior fired a high shot that hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced violently down, landing across the goal line for the equalizer.
Directly afterward, the referee blew the whistle, ending the game in a tie and netting each squad a point in the league standings.
“That is the latest goal I’ve scored,” Na-Nakornpanom said. “We were put in a bad position down 3-2. Last play of the game, it was a heck of a penalty. I’m just happy to help my team come back and tie this game.”
The Spartans (3-6-4 overall record, 0-0-1 in league) had been awarded the penalty kick as a result of a foul being called on South Pasadena as the Tigers tried to defend an incoming La Cañada corner kick.
“It was just a lot of confusion and everyone was piling on each other. It was a good call,” Spartan Chris Boghossian said. “There was nothing to be done. We got the penalty, scored it and ended the game.”
The Tigers, who were playing their league home opener after defeating Monrovia 3-0 on the road to start their league season two days earlier, had scored just a minute into extra time to take their first lead. A Spartan was issued a yellow card for a hard tackle in the middle of the field, giving the hosts a free kick some 25 yards out from goal. South Pasadena’s Shota Maekawa blasted a hard shot over the wall that dropped directly at the feet of La Cañada’s backup goalie, who went down to make the initial save. However, he spilled the rebound back into play, allowing Sawyer Fox to collect it and score. It was Fox’s second goal of the half.
La Cañada jumped out early against South Pasadena (4-2-3 overall, 1-0-1 league) with two goals in the opening 11 minutes. The first came in the fourth minute off the foot of Harry Chant. After a failed clearance by the Tigers’ backline, Chant got on the ball near the top of the box and held off a couple of defenders before slotting a shot on the ground past goalie Aidan Kinney into the back of the net.
The lead doubled in the 11th minute thanks to Spartan Jason Shibata. The senior collected a loose ball, used his dribble to cut deep into the box from the right side and then blasted a short shot in for a goal.
“I just put my head down and did the thing I needed to do,” Shibata said.
In the 30th minute of the game, South Pasadena got on the board and the momentum started to change. The Tigers were awarded a penalty kick after a foul called on the Spartans. Maekawa did the honors. He casually approached the ball straight on before zinging a shot on the ground into the right side of the net.
La Cañada was forced to play the second half with a freshman junior varsity player in goal after starter Nick Boghossian went out with a knock to the head.
“It was a mostly different second half with most [of the action] happening on our side of the field with South Pasadena style prevailing,” Costa said. “They have a more direct style of play and we are a more possession style of play. We didn’t possess as much as we should have in the second half.”