La Crescenta, Calif. – After flying high in the Wasatch mountains, SoCal Crush FC came in for a hard landing in their home opener, dropping their first home game, 0-4, to defending UWS national champions Santa Clarita Blue Heat.
Heading into their inaugural game in Utah only a week ago, head coach Reggie Rivas spoke of the importance of his young team avoiding conceding an early goal, and falling behind to more experienced sides before the team had a chance to find it’s footing.
That mission was accomplished against Real Salt Lake Women. No such luck against the dynamic and powerful Santa Clarita Blue Heat.
The Blue Heat pressed numbers forward from the opening whistle, and found joy in only the second minute when a solid cross was played back into the goal box and banged home by Costa Rican international Carolina Venegas.
“We just kept saying ‘the first fifteen minutes, we can’t give up a goal, we can’t give up a goal,’ and unfortunately in the second minute, we gave up a goal” said Rivas after the match. “I think maybe we psyched ourselves out a little too much.”
Blue Heat continued to push numbers forward, but Crush were able to settle in and employ the same “bend but don’t break” defensive mentality that worked so well for them in Utah the previous week.
At least, for the first half.
Blue Heat broke open the match in the second half with three goals, two from distance, as Venegas doubled the lead with a canon shot from the top of the arc in the 52nd minute, and 17 year old Florida State freshman phenom Emily Madril added a brace of her own to round out the scoring.
Crush were unable to answer, relying largely on counter attacks initiated by Nancy Aveysyan, who managed one threatening left footed shot from the edge of the area in the 66th minute but was otherwise held in check.
Venegas and Madril weren’t the only attacking threats Santa Clarita threw at the Crush. Blue Heat also ran out Venezuelan international Deyna Castellanos, who just completed her freshman year at Florida State, where she started all thirteen games this past season and led the university in scoring with seven goals. In addition, Castellanos plays on the Venezuelan national team. In 2014, at the age of 14, Castellanos won the Golden Boot in the U17 Women’s World Cup.
But on this night, Castellanos got nada. She was held to only one shot all evening, courtesy of Crush holding midfielder Mallory Carcich. Carcich was assigned the task of marking Castellanos, and shut her down, reducing her role to that of back-to-goal distributor.
“I thought Mallory did a fantastic job marking their number 9” remarked Rivas. “It was pretty impressive, watching them duel it out the whole game.”
Despite the result, Rivas was encouraged by his team’s performance.
“Most of our girls are just getting back from school” Rivas added. “We had a short week. Our schedule didn’t favor us on that, but moving forward, we’re going to be able to work our way into the season. We’re going to get there. We feel in the next week or two, we’ll be able to be at that level, to be able to give them a good game at their place.”
Crush will stay in SoCal, and host the team they faced on opening day, Real Salt Lake Women, on Saturday night at 6pm. RSL Women will then face the daunting task of traveling to Santa Clarita the next night to face the Blue Heat.
by Mark Edward Hornish