By GERARDO RECINOS
Blustery conditions don’t make for very attractive soccer games, but while the weather in the air was bitter cold Monday night, the temperature on the field was always rising.
It was a classic case of a referee who had lost control of the game, but luckily for Alhambra, they had pulled away a 2-0 lead by the time the madness ensued. They held off to beat the Hercules Titans by that same scoreline on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015.
Four red cards were flashed in a matter of seconds, two to players on the Alhambra bench, and two to players who came together in a series of shoulder to shoulder clashes.
Truth be told the contact was minimal, but the referee decided to discipline the players late in the second half. Sophomore Nick Silva was sent off despite not being the aggressor. A referee with the ability to calm the match would’ve separated the players and shown them both yellows.
The losses for either team did little to change the momentum of the match. The Alhambra boys sat back looking to hit the Titans on the counter in the first half, but ultimately scored on an error by the Hercules keeper.
Whether he was taught to play the role of sweeper or not, the Titan net-minder frequently took strolls out of his area, and looked to display his footwork when he did have the ball at his feet.
Alhambra freshman Reagan Cole pounced on his mistake in the 11th minute and took the ball off the keeper inside the six-yard box and proceeded to pass the ball into the empty net.
The first goal came off the back of two chances that Hercules would later rue. Alhambra only had a through ball from junior Dillon Lee to Cole cut through the Titan defense.
Cole’s touch wasn’t true and it was cleared easily.
Following the goal, the Bulldogs were vulnerable but organized. They were tight and compact inside their final third and were marshaled by junior defenders Oscar Domingues and James Cretan, as well as left back Anthony Haefke.
On two occasions Haefke used his large frame to block Titan shots from outside the 18-yard box.
Hercules couldn’t break down the Bulldog defense. In the 23rd minute, Domingues and co. again cleared their lines. They were pinned so deep they could only muster a single counter attack. Junior captain Lee had little support along with him so he took aim at goal from over 30 yards out, but couldn’t beat the keeper.
At the end of the half the Bulldogs were forced to clear their lines once more, and did so admirably despite little rest for the defense.
In the 67th minute, the Bulldogs finally broke through again. This time it came from a counter attack after Hercules was caught pressing higher and higher up the pitch.
A ball from the midfield found senior Marlon Boulongui, who beat a man before taking his touch around the Hercules keeper. For a brief second it looked as if the senior winger had taken his touch too far wide, but he fired home from a tight angle and sent the Bulldog bench into delirium.
Alhambra held on through the madness, confusion and barrage of cards handed down from the officials, but were surely without a few key components to the team for their Diablo Foothill Athletic League opener on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, against Miramonte.
The win put the Bulldogs at 2-4-2 on the season, but more importantly, gave them a win against an opponent in their same division.
EDIT: Sophomore midfielder Nick Silva was not sent off as stated above, he was shown a yellow card and not substituted back into the game.