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SAN GABRIEL VALLEY LEAGUE BOYS SOCCER: Gahr snaps long winless league slump, blasts Lynwood

By Loren Kopff


Kevin Gutierrez has seen it all as it relates to the Gahr boys soccer team. The four-year varsity defender has seen very few highs and too many lows that any high school athlete would like to see.

But after the Gladiators blanked visiting Lynwood 4-0 this past Tuesday at Hanford Rants Stadium, there is reason to be optimistic for the final five games of the regular season. For starters, Gahr’s win was the first time since Jan. 19, 2010 that it had experienced a San Gabriel Valley League victory. Ironically, that win was against Lynwood, a 1-0 triumph on the road. Since then, the Gladiators had not won in 51 straight league games.

Coming into this season, Gahr had not earned a point in league play since tying, you guessed it, Lynwood 1-1 on Jan. 18, 2011. But the Gladiators finished their Jan. 15 game with Paramount in a 2-2 tie which was the first sign that the team was heading in the right direction.

Gahr went 0-13-1 last season but under first-year head coach Jose Garcia, the team is now 4-6-1 overall and 1-3-1 after the first round of league play.

“It’s been good; way better than in previous years,” Gutierrez said. “I hadn’t won a single [league] game since today.

“I think it was the coach,” Gutierrez added as far as Garcia becoming Gahr’s fifth coach in the past 13 seasons. “He had more positive attitude and he pushed us more, because last year we didn’t have that.”

“It’s too early to say and to make assumptions, but we’re working hard,” said Gahr assistant coach Alfredo Zuniga. “We can’t change the program one day to another. They’re going through the process and they’re doing a good job.”

Garcia had to leave early in the first half and missed the rare scoring barrage in the second half. But the Gladiators set the tone in the first half by taking nine shots on goal. It wasn’t until a hand ball in the penalty box allowed sophomore midfielder Randy Rodriguez to take a penalty kick and his first goal of the season put the hosts on the board.

“It was a matter of time because we were doing things right,” Zuniga said. “It’s just that we weren’t lucky enough to put [the shots] away.”

Gahr wasn’t content with the 1-0 halftime lead and struck gold five minutes into the second half when junior midfielder Alban Lujan netted his first tally of the season. Then in the 59th minute, junior forward Juan Alberto’s team-leading eighth goal was a significant one because it marked the first time since Feb. 6, 2012 that Gahr had scored three goals in the same game. Last season, the team totaled just 14 goals.

“He’s done a great job,” Zuniga said of Alberto. “Every game he fights for it and he really believes he can do something better. He still has one year left, so we’re expecting him to give us more next year.”

With nine minutes left in the game, Lujan scored again to give Gahr its highest scoring game since Dec. 12, 2012 when the Gladiators blanked St. Paul 7-0. Gahr ended up peppering the Lynwood goalkeeper with 18 shots and took six corner kicks. Lynwood was also hampered with 12 fouls, giving the Gladiators extra chances with free kicks.

So, as Gahr began the second round of league play on Jan. 29 against Warren and will visit Paramount on Tuesday before hosting Downey on Thursday, it knows that it has a shot for at least third place and an automatic spot in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section playoffs. Downey entered this past Tuesday’s game against Dominguez with a 1-2-1 league mark. Gahr has not been to the playoffs since 2006 and has not finished above fifth place since 2007.

“The mindset of the coaching staff and the team was we have to get this victory,” Zuniga said. “We don’t want to finish last every year. This year is going to be the year that we start changing things around.”