As temperatures dropped under the lights Friday, Dec. 8, the Sedona Red Rock High School boys soccer team grew closer to breaking the 0-0 tie with American Leadership Academy – Queen Creek.
During the first half, the Scorpions [1-2, 1-0 3A Region 1] had created some chances, the best with 10 seconds left, a strong header by sophomore midfielder Clark Borjon that flew wide. It appeared they would make halftime adjustments and be in position to compete for a nonregion victory.
But it was the Patriots who were strongest in the second half, ultimately winning 4-0.
“We feel we had a positive first half. It might have just declined a little bit, the pace, the energy of our team in the second half,” Red Rock head coach Daniel Valenzuela said. “This is a new team. It’s going to take a little more time to reflect that training in the training sessions out on the field, but we feel very pleased. There are a few mistakes, of course.”
Five minutes into the second half, Patriots senior striker Ismail Ahmed hit the outside of the goal, then he hit the ball well over after a defensive misplay by Red Rock junior right back Elias Turnbull.
Ahmed eventually scored, in the 61st minute, when Red Rock sophomore goalkeeper Alfonso Diaz left a big rebound for him to bury from near the edge of the penalty box.
Two minutes later American Leadership Academy was awarded a penalty after an unapparent foul by Scorpions senior center defender Julian Travaglia, who stood out for his calmness with the ball and reliability in the back.
“Julian did exceptionally well given the conditions that he’s playing in. He had to pull water out of the well this week,” Valenzuela said. “He’s just growing into a more mature player. I like that reflection because now that reflects leadership, a positive thing for the team and now the team expects that from him next time.”
Patriots sophomore midfielder Josue Roque converted the spot kick. Four minutes after that, Ahmed received the ball in the middle with plenty of time and space to find Roque down the left, with Roque finishing low to Diaz’s left.
In the 76th minute the Patriots added their fourth.
“One of the goals actually happened because nobody was in the middle, in the center [midfield],” Valenzuela said. “I think they forgot a little bit of the dynamic and a little bit of the transition part, so we’re just looking forward to reemphasizing that and moving forward with it.”
Red Rock’s best chance of the second half came near the 55-minute mark. Senior midfielder Justin Wassell got on the end of a sophomore Ben Philo corner kick and fizzled the ball wide with a header.
During most of the second half it was the Patriots who controlled the tempo, and the Scorpions got their looks at goal with quick attacks.
They experimented with player positioning. At one point Borjon and Philo played as a striking duo, but Philo was eventually substituted with an injury. At other times, there were huge spaces between the Red Rock defenders and its midfielders and attackers.
The first half of play was seemingly opposite. Red Rock was for the most part on the front foot. Sophomore striker Michael Lagorio hit the upper corner on a long-range shot halfway through.
In the 30th minute Travaglia, Borjon and Philo combined for one of the better team moves. Travaglia brought the ball up from the back into wide open space, laying the ball off to Borjon. Borjon danced across the middle of the field and found Philo with a through ball on a well-timed run, but Philo struck the outside netting. From there, though, the Scorpions’ attack became more opaque, save for the Borjon header with time winding down.
“We forgot to share the ball sometimes in the middle. So we didn’t pass the ball, we didn’t share it as much as we should have, so that led to less space even though there is space,” Valenzuela said. “We held on better in the first half than the second half.”
The team’s conditioning level was not the best it can be, Valenzuela added; however, he did like the players’ overall effort throughout the match. Moving forward he wants to see more patience and organization.
Red Rock next plays at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 13, at home against Wickenburg High School.