Just like its win at Millikan on Monday, Wilson boys’ soccer emerged victorious from a hotly contested Moore League match at home on Wednesday thanks to one magical touch from an accomplished senior.
It was Brian Calderon on Monday, and it was Anthony Garcia on Wednesday against Long Beach Poly. His incredible header in the 64th minute was the difference as the Bruins beat the Jackrabbits 1-0 to take over first place in the league after one week of local action.
“This means a lot,” Garcia said. “It’s a big win just going into winter break happy and coming back strong for our next game.”
Wilson had the upper hand in the midfield for most of the proceedings and outshot Poly 7-4 while holding the Jackrabbits without a shot on goal in the second half.
“To play the two harder teams in our league before Christmas is stressful, and to get a good result in both of them makes it so we don’t have to worry as much,” Wilson coach CJ Brewer said of the wins over Millikan and Poly. “We can continue to keep momentum rolling. (This win) helps us build momentum and that’s all we’re after.”
This is the third clean sheet of the season for Wilson goalkeeper Gavin Pool-Harris and the Bruins defense. They did the same thing to Millikan on Monday.
“I pride myself on communication skills so I kept the defense organized and they all listened to me,” Pool-Harris said. “(Poly) had a bunch of chances and no real shot on goal (in the second half) so that’s just great defense.”
“It’s because everyone is returning (on defense) and they learned lessons last year that we’ve continued on to this year,” Brewer said of the clean sheets. “It also works because we’ve given Gavin and (fellow team captain Beck Peterson) leadership roles and they are able to be organized and be leaders.”
Poly started the game on the front foot with returning All-Moore League Co-MVP Omar Juarez influencing the play all over the pitch. He helped the Jackrabbits earn some dangerous set pieces, but they were limited to only three shots on goal in the first half.
“(Wilson) definitely came out and executed their game plan, which is to make things difficult for us in the middle,” Poly coach Eric Leon said. “I felt that we didn’t connect as much as we traditionally do. That comes with familiarity and we know how each other plays.”
The center referee was busy to start the second half with six foul calls in the first seven minutes after the break, but the first and only goal of the game came on a long ball in that wasn’t a set piece.
“We were attacking mainly through our width but we couldn’t at one point and I stayed up top for a couple minutes because I knew it was going to land there or something,” Garcia said.
The senior timed his run up the middle perfectly and sent his header back to the left side to beat the goalkeeper.
“I knew it was going to land there,” Garcia said of meeting the ball in the 18-yard box. “I ran back as quick as I could and did what I could and it went in.”
As a freshman, Garcia made a similar play on a long ball in to help the Bruins score late and win an historic league title.
“That’s stuff Anthony does all the time,” Brewer said. “He’s a very creative player who sees things that other people don’t see. In training he’s always putting the ball on frame all of the time.”
The Wilson defense absorbed all of the pressure down the stretch while holding the Jackrabbits without a shot on goal.
“It really gives us more confidence,” Pool-Harris said of the win. “We’ve grown so much already this season with chemistry and everything. We’re getting better every single day. This is just going to propel us further to unlock our true ability.”
“We didn’t really have good chances to score, so credit to their good defense,” Leon said. “We have to make adjustments on the fly. A couple of our key players had off games, but again that’s (Wilson) doing a good job.”
Wilson will play in the SoCal Nike High School Classic next and face quality side San Clemente in the first round.
Poly will face El Rancho, Paramount and Warren in nonleague action before Christmas.
Moore League play resumes after the New Year.