By GERARDO RECINOS
There is perhaps no better way to open the Diablo Foothill Athletic League’s last boys soccer campaign for Alhambra than by securing a draw and keeping a clean sheet against a tough opponent in Miramonte.
With a superhuman effort from senior Jose Diaz in goal, the Bulldogs were able to leave Knowles Field with a 0-0 draw on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015.
The Bulldogs, riding high from a win on Monday against Hercules started their first league game with a possession brand of soccer that would have been too much for them last year.
After an initial few minutes of Miramonte pressing Alhambra into their defensive half, the Bulldogs retaliated.
Senior captain Blake Johnson went on a galloping run allowing the team to push forward. Junior Jack Fuller had the game’s first effort on frame for Alhambra, but his shot was always going high.
In the ninth minute, Fuller beat his man down the wing, and fired a cross to the back post that was centered by freshman Reagan Cole, but senior Marlon Boulongui skied his shot in his attempt to volley home from close range.
Alhambra was able to connect their passes well but it was a battle in the midfield as both teams continually sought to win the ball back anytime they lost possession of it.
Fuller and Boulongui showed excellent work rate to try and steal the ball, and hurried any passes from the Matadors when they sought to build from the back.
In the 23rd minuted sophomore Nick Silva played a brilliant through ball to Fuller down the wing, and Fuller took a touch to set himself but fired his shot just wide of the far post.
In the 32nd minute Diaz made a big save from a free kick, but Alhambra couldn’t clear their lines, so he and the rest of the Bulldog back line were forced to endure a barrage.
The rest of the half, and most of the remainder of the game continued in the same fashion.
Whereas in the first half, the Bulldogs were connecting three or four passes at a time, in the second half they looked more content to play 30-yard long balls to their isolated forwards.
Diaz produced a fine save from a header off a set-piece to deny Daniel Konsantino.
Andrew Olvera made a great last ditch tackle minutes later to continue to keep the Miramonte pressure out.
In the 61st minute a dipping free kick Karel Balogh struck from just outside the 18-yard box. He did so again in the 64th and 68th minute to keep Miramonte out once more.
His finest effort came in the 71st minute when Balogh played in teammate Konsantino, but the keeper came off his line and made a brilliant kick save to deny the junior Matador.
While there were many mad scrambles in front of goal in the final five minutes of play, Miramonte couldn’t find a way to put the ball in the back of the net. They had many opportunities to do so but were thwarted by the Bulldogs.
With the draw, the Bulldogs open their league campaign with crucial points that will be important once the league campaign gets going. Points against Division II rivals will be key.