By GERARDO RECINOS
Last year’s Winter Classic got off to a solid start for Alhambra, and was really the only shining light in what was otherwise a dreary season.
This year, the Bulldogs opened the classic with a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of the Concord High Minutemen. Alhambra will be hoping the big loss doesn’t foreshadow coming results, but a loss against a tough Concord team that was in the playoffs last year isn’t too hard to stomach.
After the game, coach Rory Gentry said that he felt there was some good amongst a lot of bad.
The Bulldogs spent most of the game trying to contend with Concord’s forwards, who pressed them into the Alhambra final third, and looked like they were playing in a 4-2-4 they were so high up the pitch.
It only took the Minutemen six minutes to score their first goal. A deflected shot was turned in by the Concord attacker who had a real poacher’s instinct to turn the ball in from close range.
Three minutes later the Minutemen struck again, this time off a set-piece taken from 40 yards away. A brilliant touch around the defender and a deft chip by the Concord forward beat the Bulldogs into a 2-0 hole.
For the opening 30 minutes, only junior Dillon Lee’s snap shot straight at the keeper troubled the Minutemen. Alhambra could find no way to unlock the defense, and instead resorted to playing long balls to their forwards, who were isolated due to the lack of possession.
In the 20th minute Concord struck for the third time, this time with some nifty build up play leading to the third goal.
Alhambra senior Jose Diaz made a great save before the half to keep Alhambra from allowing a fourth goal.
After a wasteful half on the ball, and a disorganized back four performance, Gentry made some changes, including dropping captain Blake Johnson into a defensive role. Johnson solidified the back line, and alongside Oscar Dominguez the duo were able to provide a more stable back line.
In the 49th minute it looked like Alhambra would get something from the contest after all when Lee took a free kick from 25 yards out and hit it true. But instead, his shot cannoned agonizingly off the crossbar.
What’s worse is that Concord’s star forward made them pay only two minutes later with a peach of a ball that found the man on the wing. Still with work to do, the Concord winger’s touch took him around the Alhambra defender and he slotted home coolly to get the Minutemen’s fourth of the match.
Having let off a bit, Concord’s second team players still troubled the Alhambra defense, but didn’t manage to score again.