La Crescenta, Calif. – After dropping their home opener against defending UWS National Champion Santa Clarita Blue Heat last week, SoCal Crush FC may have been hoping to get back on track against the opponent they beat on the road on opening day, Real Salt Lake Women.
RSLW had other ideas.
Led by University of Utah striker Hailey Skomolski’s hat trick, Real Salt Lake Women exacted brutal revenge on SoCal Crush FC, rolling to a 5-0 win on a gorgeous evening in the foothills of Southern California.
“They played with more intensity tonight” said Crush head coach Reggie Rivas after the match. “They really pressed us. Last time they allowed us to play our game, but this time they really went after us.”
SoCal was put on the back foot in the 9th minute when Skomolski anticipated a back pass from right back Jenna Hernandez, pressured goalkeeper Mia Fernandez, and forced an own goal that set the tone for the remainder of the half.
Skomolski commenced pounding nails in the SoCal coffin, converting left foot high in 20th minute, right foot far post low in the 31st, before cementing her side’s eventual victory – and her bid for UWS Player of the Week – by converting a penalty kick in the 37th minute. By halftime her work was done, and RSL Women head coach Alex DuVal subbed Skomolski off for the remainder of the evening.
Down 0-4 coming out of the break, Crush head coach Reggie Rivas had no choice but to begin subbing on players earlier than he had hoped, and changing his tactical approach to the match as well.
“We went to a 4-4-2” said Rivas when asked about his tactical adjustments. “We figured out in the midfield we were getting beat a lot, so we went to a 4-4-2 to try to stretch them more, and obviously we had more success in the second half.”
SoCal played RSLW even in the second half, and at last began generating dangerous opportunities in front of the RSLW net. Rivas singled out left back Allison Arriola as representative of the fight his team showed in the second half. “Allison did great. She worked her butt off for us, played with a lot of heart, a lot of guts” said Rivas. “Our girls played 100% the whole game, they didn’t give up; and Allison lead that charge. Credit to Allison.”
The team’s best chance came when offensive talisman Nancy Aveysyan received an entry ball from Sloan Askins, spun her defender and fired off a hard low shot that was goal bound, but for a spectacular sliding save by RSLW goalkeeper Rebecca Ritchie, who came flying off her line to prevent the first Crush goal on their home turf.
It was not to be, and SoCal remains scoreless at home on the season after two games. “We’re going to work on our attack,” said Rivas when asked about how his side plans to regroup and prepare for their next match in two weeks. “We have to have an attacking mindset, and we don’t have that right now. We’re playing to keep it close instead of playing to win, and we have to change that.”
Falling behind early was not part of the Crush game plan, and Rivas went to his bench sooner, and more often, than he anticipated coming into the match.
“It wasn’t working, what we were doing. Nothing was working, so we had to start changing things up to try to give us a chance” said Rivas, who made use of all seven of his substitution cards, four before the first half even ended.
Notable in her performance off the bench was attacking midfielder Sloan Askins. The Amherst College rising sophomore effectively changed the dynamic in the center of the pitch. When asked what he felt Askins provided, her head coach did not hesitate. “Speed,” Rivas stated. “Speed and strength. She knocked a couple girls down, won some challenges, and really helped us in getting our attack going.”
For the Crush, despite the improved play in the 2nd half, and despite the opening day victory, the fact remains they have now lost their last two games by a combined score of 9-0. If there’s any good news, it’s that they will now get two weeks off, and have ample time to prepare for their next home match, at home on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 18th, at 1pm v Houston Aces.
by Mark Edward Hornish