Falcons fall to Golden Eagles in final preseason game

The Falcons’ (4-6-1) two-game scoring drought continued as they fell to San Pasqual High School (7-2-2) 1-0 on Jan. 11.

In the opening minutes, the Falcons maintained possession and were able to open attacking lanes by switching the field of play. This created multiple scoring opportunities, none of which the Falcons were able to take advantage of. TPHS pressure led to four set pieces, including a scoring opportunity off a corner. Forward Eduardo Bazua (12) redirected a corner with a glancing header, but the ball sailed just outside the top left frame of the goal.

A mishandled goal kick by the Golden Eagles’ goalie led to a three on two breakaway headed by Jacques Bialostozky (12); however, the Falcons were unable to score.

“I wasn’t ready for that ball, but it let us know that the goalie makes mistakes,” Bialostozky said. “I was pretty disappointed, but at the same time I know things like that happen and you just need to get over it and score the next one.”

San Pasqual controlled the game by seizing the midfield. The Falcons’ inability to pass led to a multiple counter attacks  pinning the Falcons’ defense down to their own half.

According to defender Ryan McKee (12), the absence of captains J.T. Esquibel (12) and Sam Horton (12) affected the team’s ability to control the tempo of the game.

“Our defense right now is not as unified as [it] could be,” Esquibel  said. “I would like them to be more sound.”

According to TPHS head coach Andy Hargreaves, the Falcons looked to play a high tempo game. However, their inability to score on multiple chances in the opening 15 minutes led Hargreaves to substitute select attacking squad members.

“Substitutions ruin the tempo,  Ryan McKee (12) said. “We didn’t control the midfield at all; we didn’t connect passes the whole game. That really controls the tempo.”

Added pressure by the San Pasqual offense and lack of communication within the TPHS defensive line led to unmarked Golden Eagles, and consequently, missed tackles.

“We don’t have a solid connection from the midfield to the forwards,” Esquibel said. “We sometimes looked to play it long and we didn’t have someone to thread the ball through the backline.”

The Falcons could not regain control of the midfield until the concluding 10 minutes of the first half, in which they serviced multiple through balls in an attempt to score.  With just minutes left in the first half, Hargreaves made a tactical change to push the defensive line up to support the attacking cast, and slid left attacking midfielder Jeremy Dinkin (12) toward the left sideline to open attacking lanes for strikers Erik McKee (11) and Tyler Valdes (11).

“Sliding [Dinkin] to the right side allows him to get more involved with the forward,” Elliot Patrick (11) said. “Having Jeremy on the sideline can add another [man] forward and give [the forwards] more room in and around the defense.”

The decision provided one attacking series, but the Golden Eagles counterattacked successfully; the half concluded as the Falcons scrambled to clear the ball out of their own half.

Kicking off the second half, the Falcons substituted goalie Alex Baracchini (10) for Patrick Koeneke (11), and created a few offensive chances from corner kicks. The San Pasqual keeper was tested early on a volleyed corner, which ricocheted off  him.

The Golden Eagles were able to protect their goal for the remainder of the game, by preserving possession and exploiting the fragile Torrey Pines defense. Despite an ankle injury, Horton was substituted into the midfield in the 57th minute. According to Esquibel, Horton enhanced the fluidity in the midfield, but did not prevent the recurrent counter attacks.

“We were trying to put more numbers and key players there, so we will see if that works,” Hargreaves said. “Having [Horton is] key. Every good team has a good senior group; we don’t have as many starting seniors – that’s part of the problem.”

Minutes after the squad rotation, TPHS was penalized for a missed tackle. The free kick was placed outside the box on the right side. The ball was struck with pace low on a line from 20 yards out, deflected off the goalie and redirected to the back left corner of the net, giving San Pasqual the only score of the game.

“We lost our focus – that’s really how they scored their goal,” McKee said. “We kind of got complacent a little bit. They jumped on it and wanted it more than us, and they got a sneaky little goal.”

According to San Pasqual head coach John Burson, the Falcons play well at home, so San Pasqual   had to get their goal “any way [they] could.”

“It was a scrappy goal, but that’s what it takes to beat a good team,” Burson said.

In the final minutes of the game, Hargreaves opted to change goalies back to Baracchini. According to Hargreaves, Baracchini has been substituted in situations that require his “distribution,” enabling players to push forward on pursuing drives.

“We missed chances. You have to take ownership of the things you can affect,” Hargreaves said, “I thought we did alright, [but] we didn’t play our best game.”

But none of the Falcons scoring attempts yielded any results.

“The two things we need going forward are to determine our defensive line situation and establish who the team’s lead goal scorer will be,” Esquibel said.

The Falcons will face Mount Carmel High School at home today at 5:00 p.m.

by Alex McCracken