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SOCCER: One goal just enough for Norwalk to ring in 2015 with victory

By Loren Kopff

The Norwalk boys soccer team wrapped up its non league slate with a home game against Long Beach Wilson last Friday and one goal was all the Lancers needed to pick up a win. Despite dominating the Bruins throughout most of the game and missing one chance after another, junior forward Jason Alvarez provided the game’s only tally in the 59th minute to give the Lancers its fifth victory in eight games.

“It was okay,” said Norwalk head coach Vinson Pluma. “For having so many guys out during the [winter] break, we didn’t get as much practice time in as we expected. So, we definitely have some guys who are a little out of shape.”

The first of Norwalk’s eight shots on goal in the first half came just four minutes in when senior forward Gonzalo Velez missed following a corner kick. Five minutes later, sophomore defender Anthony Galicia sent a cross to senior forward Julio Ponce at the left corner of the penalty box. However, his shot was too high. Two minutes later, Ponce was loose on a breakaway but his attempt went to the left of the net.

“Definitely against good teams, we have to put those away,” Pluma said. “It doesn’t matter who you are playing. You have to put those away. You have to be sharp, you have to be creative in the box, and that’s one of those things that…I think we were a little predictable in the first half.”

After getting a five-minute breather, Alvarez returned to the game in the 26th minute and tried to take matters in his own hands, or in this case, his feet. With nine minutes remaining in the half, he carved through the Wilson defense before taking a point blank shot which was saved. Two minutes later, he was denied a goal at the left post and in the 56th minute, he had another shot blocked after racing down the left sideline. But in the 59th minute, he finally found the back of the net after taking a free kick from 23 yards out that curled in towards the left side of the net. It was his first goal of the season and the team’s ninth.

“That’s his M.O., though,” Pluma said. “We have to actually manage that because he does like to take the ball and sometimes he doesn’t let go enough. He will take the ball and he will make things happen. But he has to know the timing of when to let go of the ball and when to shoot and when to share.”

While the Lancers (5-2-1) have just nine goals on the season, they have been dominating on the defensive end, posting five shutouts and allowing five goals, two to Warren and the other three to California, both games on the road.

Norwalk, which has alternated second and fourth place finishes in the Suburban League the past four seasons, visited Artesia this past Wednesday and will host Cerritos today, Mayfair on Monday and La Mirada on Wednesday. The Lancers went 10-2 in league action two seasons ago but stumbled to 4-6-2 last season and was bounced out in the first round of the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section playoffs. In addition, Norwalk has failed to win 10 overall games in two of the past three seasons after a streak of six seasons of at least 14 victories and fewer than eight losses.

“I think it’s wide open, definitely,” Pluma said of the league for this season. “I think this year Bellflower is going to be pretty strong. But I think we have a good core of guys that if they really come about, I think we’re going to challenge for the top. But again, we have to put more goals in. That’s the key.”