Tuesday night’s league opening soccer match between the Santa Clara Bruins and Fremont Firebirds varsity boys teams wasn’t exactly played in a monsoon, but the stormy weather made for a slick, bouncing ball on the Firebirds’ home turf.
With both teams battling the elements, ball control was a bit tougher for both sides. A number of through balls sent towards attacking players skipped harmlessly through to goalkeepers Nolan Gallo of the Bruins and Jonathan Zetina of the Firebirds.
After a scoreless first half, things started to open up a bit in the second. Bruins forward Lucas Nguyen found the back of the Fremont net in the 58th minute when he was able to get a foot on a rebound originally put towards the net by teammate Maxwell Nguyen.
In the 65th minute the Bruins would lose center back Kyle Campbell to a red card after he pulled down Jose Espinzoa from behind on a breakaway just outside the 18-yard box. The contact looked borderline, but was enough to draw the red, given it was from behind to deny an obvious goal-scoring situation.
Fremont’s set-piece attempt following the red card would sail high over the crossbar, but the Firebirds managed to tie up the score just a couple minutes later in the 69th minute. Joel Robles’ left-footed corner bent in over Gallo’s outstretched hand, just below the bar for the tying goal.
With less than five minutes remaining, a cross into the Firebirds’ box would go off a Fremont hand, setting up a penalty kick for the Bruins. Santa Clara senior Nathan Kalapala would calmly slide it past Zetina for the game-winning goal.
“It was a decent game,” remarked Kalapala on the win. “It was a bit hard to keep possession with the rain, but we got the win.”
“For a first league game I don’t think we played that bad. It could have gone better, but in this weather, you can only do what you can,” added Bruins Assistant Coach John Nunes. “I thought we played pretty good.”
The Bruins did a pretty solid job of regrouping after falling down to 10 men. While possession was tough for both teams, Santa Clara did get the majority of quality chances at goal. Zetina was certainly the best player for Fremont, as the keeper made a number of impressive saves.
“We’re glad to have a goalie like that,” chimed Firebirds defender Elias Arreguin. “We’re really happy to have him, a guy who can make big saves like that.”
“Jon is a very good kid, very talented young keeper,” added Firebirds Head Coach Demba Diallo. “Some areas he can work on, but usually on one-v-ones, nine times out of ten, I don’t even worry because I have seen over the years, he does make those saves really well.”
Zetina and the Firebirds as a whole impressed on Tuesday given the fact they moved up to the higher division this year and were playing the opener without at least a dozen players on their roster due to family vacations and injuries to some key starters. Playing a tight game against a tough Bruins squad is a good sign moving forward.
Fremont will look to get its first win in league when the Firebirds take on Palo Alto on Jan. 9. Santa Clara will look to improve to 2-0 when the Bruins take on Jan. 4.