Resolute defense holds on in tie with Northgate

Alhambra junior Nick Silva beats his defender as he picks his eyes up and surveys the field in his team’s 0-0 draw with Northgate on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. (MARK FIERNER / Martinez Tribune)
Alhambra junior Nick Silva beats his defender as he picks his eyes up and surveys the field in his team’s 0-0 draw with Northgate on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. (MARK FIERNER / Martinez Tribune)

By GERARDO RECINOS
Martinez Tribune

Resolute defending and virtually no attacking was the formula to the Alhambra boys soccer teams’ 0-0 draw with Northgate on Tuesday night, but given the pedigree of the opponent, that’s still a win.

The Broncos are coming off a North Coast Section appearance last year, and have qualified each of the last four years.

Make no mistake these were two teams on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. One is full of senior leadership and only has three sophomores in the team. The other starts two freshman, and has few players who have been with the program for more than two years.

And yet they both walked off the field with neither having been able to break the deadlock. It’s just one was happier than the other.

After a few brief moments of end-to-end action, the tight battle of the midfield ended roughly five minutes after it started. The Broncos controlled the ball patiently and did well to switch play early on, allowing their wide men to get forward well.

Junior Ryan Roo was left with plenty of space to work in the midfield due to the smart switch of play, and it allowed him to create. He worked well with lone striker Ivan Ostapenko, but captain Nick Giannini was the danger man for Northgate.

It didn’t come to much in the first half, but with Northgate dictating the pace of the game it didn’t seem to matter much that a few shots off target didn’t find the back of the net.

In the 44th minute Roo slid a pass into Giannini that the senior scuffed just wide of the mark. The Bulldogs were behind the ball with eight men from that point on.

Freshman Mario Garcia and junior Hunter Bradford in particular worked well despite being forced to defend for nearly 80 minutes. Bradford was cautioned early in the second half but didn’t allow the yellow card to effect his play.

In the 54th minute a free kick given away by Alhambra was put on frame from a headed effort by sophomore Ethan Schick, but goalkeeper Corey Drevno pulled it in harmlessly.

At this point all Alhambra could do to clear their lines was punt the ball deep. Senior captain Jack Fuller and sophomore Reagan Cole were forced to chase long balls and hope to play off one another but their connection was missing. Most of their work was done chasing around passes along the back line.

After not having created much of anything all match, the Bulldogs nearly stunned the Broncos. As it known to happen when the defense isn’t tested, Northgate looked a bit slow to react when they were nearly punished by the Dogs.

A back heel from junior Nick Silva found captain Andrew Olvera down the left-hand side. Olvera’s cross found Garcia in the box, but the freshman couldn’t maintain his composure and shot wide.

Five minutes later Northgate nearly found their winner, but instead the shot cannoned off the post and it was clear the Bulldog wall would stand resolute.

For ten minutes Alhambra was forced into an exercise on clearing their lines, but they stood tall until the final whistle rang, not victorious, but with a point to hang their hats on.

About Gerardo Recinos

Gerardo Recinos is a journalist currently living in Concord, Calif. He is a recent graduate of San Francisco State University, with a degree in Journalism (History minor). Gerardo covers sports throughout Martinez and Pleasant Hill. It's his lifelong mission to get people in the U.S. to stop calling football "soccer," and to call American football "handegg."

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