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Revamped Norwalk squad knocks shorthanded John Glenn out of playoff contention

By Loren Kopff

It was the last day of the regular season and the John Glenn boys soccer team needed a win plus a La Mirada victory over Mayfair in order to reach the playoffs. Standing in its way, though, was city rival Norwalk, which had already locked up second place in the Suburban League.

Behind a vaunted defensive stand, especially in the final moments of the game and a pressing offense that took 14 shots on goal, the host Lancers held on to a 1-0 victory last Thursday afternoon that ended any chances of the Eagles continuing their season. The win put an exclamation point on a monster turnaround from last season.

Norwalk struggled last season and although they went to the playoffs for the seventh straight season, the Lancers ended with a 9-9-4 mark and finished in fourth place. This season, Norwalk goes into the playoffs with a 14-4-1 record, 10-2-0 in league action.

“Last year we struggled with some guys not being here,” Pluma said. “The seniors we did have struggled from the year they came in as freshmen. So those kids struggled all the way through. But luckily we still made it to the playoffs. But these kids right here are young. We had three sophomores rotating in [today] plus one who is ineligible. So we have four sophomores who will be returning plus some juniors who will be returning.”

After finishing in third place last season and compiling an 8-7-4 record, the Eagles went 5-9-2 overall, 3-7-2 in the circuit and fell to fifth place. Even if the Eagles had won, they didn’t get any other help as Mayfair knocked off La Mirada and claimed fourth place and four points ahead of Glenn.

“There was no type of discipline,” said John Glenn head coach Javier Romero of this season. “There was very, very low discipline. They don’t know how to play the ball with their body.”

The Lancers got the break they needed in the 17th minute when senior midfielder Jose Mora took a free kick outside the left corner of the penalty box and after a couple of bounces, it landed to senior forward Jose Rodriguez who was facing the opposite way but his bicycle kick got past Glenn senior goalkeeper Jorge Melendez.

After that, Glenn’s self esteem went a few notches down and Norwalk kept its intensity up. In the 32nd minute, Glenn junior midfielder Ruben Martinez received his second yellow card and was disqualified from the game, which left the Eagles a man down the rest of the way. Two minutes later, Glenn senior defender Jose Velez received a yellow card and the result left Mora with a free kick which was saved on a Melendez dive at the left post.

“When Ruben got the red card, the team fell apart a little bit but still held on to the 1-0 [deficit],” Romero said.

Norwalk had several opportunities to increase its lead early in the second half. However, junior defender Anthony Mendoza’s shot on an open net sailed too high over the crossbar in the 49th minute. One minute later, junior forward Jorge Perez got loose on a breakaway midway through the Glenn defense. But his open shot went wide left.

“We can’t miss opportunities against good teams,” Pluma said. “I think we were extra cautious than we usually are. Some teams are not high scoring teams and I think we’re more cautious on defense when it comes to that.”

Those missed chances left the door open for a shorthanded Eagles squad but it wasn’t until the 73rd minute that they made a desperate attempt to tie the game. Senior midfielder Abraham Garcia’s shot on a free kick was saved by junior goalkeeper Henry Martinez. In the 79th minute, a corner kick from Glenn senior Octavio Rivera was deflected away and two minutes into stoppage time, sophomore Enrique Cuevas went up high towards Martinez and was issued a red card for spiking the goalkeeper on an apparent shot attempt.

“The goalkeeper did what he had to do,” Romero said. “We didn’t know how to create opportunities and take advantage of the opportunities we had up top with our forwards.”

Norwalk, the seventh ranked team in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division IV poll, will host Ganesha today in the first round. Ganesha, the second place representatives from the Montview League, have a 7-10-5 record.

 

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