Long Beach soccer fans have gone from famine to feast this month. March started with the hope that local high school teams could return to action, and already this week there’s a pair of first-place showdowns for Moore League boys’ and girls’ soccer.
Wilson boys’ are off to a hot start and visit Millikan tonight where a winner will take over first place in the standings. That game is scheduled to kickoff at 6 p.m. before the 6:30 p.m. scheduled kickoff at Wilson where the Bruins girls’ are taking on the two-time defending league champion Rams.
“Everyone has worked so hard to get back and it’s going to be fun to watch,” Wilson girls’ coach Dalton Kaufman said.
Both Wilson teams avoided the trap games on Tuesday when they faced Lakewood in an afternoon doubleheader.
Kaufman’s squad used their pace to break though a tough Lakewood defense in a 6-1 Wilson win. Senior Emma Shiffer scored twice for the Bruins while Samantha Brandts, Cade Mendoza, Reese Doherty and Samantha Thompson also netted goals.
With a strong wind at their backs in the first half, the Bruins (3-0, 3-0) bossed the proceedings while outshooting Lakewood 12-0. Mendoza was key in adjusting to the unpredictable gusts that changed every pass.
“We wanted to avoid the long balls, and if we are going to do long balls, take a shot instead of wasting them,” Mendoza said. “We moved it though the middle to find those little passes because they had a high line.”
Good fortune helped Brandts get Wilson going in the 25th minute on a cross that ended up in the back of the net.
“I thought we struggled today and it took us a half to figure it out,” Kaufman said. “This was the first game we played against a competitive team and Lakewood was super organized. Eventually we figured it out. We’ve got some kinks to work out but I’m proud of these girls.”
Wilson could have one of the fastest group of forwards in the CIF Southern Section with Thompson and Doherty taking up a lot of space.
“I like our dynamics and our speed up top,” Mendoza said. “I also like our drive to get down the line and once we’re in we’re all attaching the box on crosses. And if we lose it as a team we’re there for each other.”
Wilson or Millikan has won at least a share of the league title every season since 2016, and Kaufman knows Thursday’s game will have a postseason vibe.
“We’ve got great athleticism,” he said of his team. “We’re not pressing as much this year because we’re not as deep, but I hope you’ll see against Millikan that when we get going on offense we really get going.”
The Wilson boys’ have been equally as exciting to watch as the Bruins are off to a 5-1 start, and are 3-0 in league. Coach C.J. Brewer has challenged his squad with top opponents and Wilson has already beaten Division 1 competition Santa Ana, Los Alamitos, Jordan and Cabrillo. The Bruins stout defense and goalkeeper Gavin Pool-Harris have only allowed one goal this season.
That defense was key in the 4-0 win over Lakewood on Tuesday because the Lancers created the first handful of scoring chances before Alan Cornejo and the Bruins attack countered with a pair of goals on their first two chances of the game.
Cornejo went down the left flank to feed Jobe De La Cruz on the first goal in the 10th minute, and then lost his defender on the right flank to find Brian Calderon’s head at the back post in the 28th minute.
“We were looking for width on both sides,” Cornejo said. “Our center mids did a good job of just pushing the ball out wide which caused me to play down the line and get those crosses in. I see my player right where he needs to be and I just put it right there.”
Brewer said he’s sure the Millikan coaches in the stands who were scouting the game walked away knowing they’ll have to deal with Cornejo first on Thursday.
“He’s dangerous,” Brewer said of his midfielder. “He has games like this and your jaw drops. We just need to replicate that with him. There’s other games where you don’t notice him was much but you sure noticed him today. I know Millikan did too.”
Fernando Ramirez and Daniel Cervantes doubled Wilson’s lead in the second half with incredible free kick goals, but Brewer said his team thrives on working together.
“We don’t have any rock stars, but when we play as a team we can do great things and we played like a team today,” he said. “(Against Millikan) We’re going to play strong defense and take advantage of the chances we get going forward together. There isn’t a lot of dribbling going on, it’s a lot of passing. If we can do that against Millikan it’s going to be a good game. If we start playing as individuals it’s going to be ugly for us.”
With their size and technical skill, Wilson is looking to make a serious run in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs, but first the Bruins are trying to win a second league title in the last three seasons. Their last championship before that was 14 years ago.
Both Millikan teams are coming off strong performances against Long Beach Poly last week.