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Los Alamitos leans on defense to grab Aliso Cup
The boys soccer season is only one week old, but a potential No. 1 seed in the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs might have been revealed Monday night at Aliso Niguel High.
The past two seasons, the Aliso Cup has been pretty good at predicting the team to beat when the playoffs start in February.
No. 3 Los Alamitos became one of the favorites to be the top seed by playing Sunset League rival Marina to a scoreless tie then beating the No. 2 Vikings on penalty kicks, 4-3, to win the Aliso Cup championship.
Edison and Servite, the two previous champions, both were the No. 1 seed in Division 1 at the start of the playoffs.
"So is that how it works?" Los Alamitos coach Don Martinez asked as he stared at the shiny gold trophy the team had just been awarded. "This is a good, quality tournament. This does mean something. It is an early win, and it gets the season off in the right manner. It helps you prepare for the rest of the season. It helps set the stage for you to be successful."
Los Alamitos’ well-organized defense was behind the victory as the Griffins managed to do something that Marina’s four other opponents in the tournament couldn’t do. They shut down Marina’s senior forward, Dakoda Muta, who scored six goals during the Aliso Cup.
Muta was limited to just a few shots on Monday night, but he did come awfully close to giving the Vikings the lead in the 15th minute. He intercepted a pass at mid field and dribbled deep into the right corner, firing a hard line drive at the near post, but Connor Fatone caught the ball to record one of his four saves.
“He works really hard. He’s strong and he creates his own opportunities,” Martinez said of Muta. “We are very disciplined in the back. We may not have all of the talent in the world on paper, but we keep good defensive shape. We didn’t let him get open looks at the goal.”
But the Griffins didn’t seem to have much trouble finding some space in the final third. In the 18th minute, Daniel Weis sent a cross into the 6-yard box right to where Evan Bacani was headed, but Bacani just missed getting a toe on the ball.
A bit later in the first half, Ozvaldo Yanez took aim at the goal from 20 yards out. Nico Gambino, however, was able to just get his finger tips in the shot and knock the ball away before it could curl inside the far post.
Gambino came up big for the Vikings in PKs, too, stopping Weis’ shot, which had it gone in would have delivered a victory for the Griffins. Zac Way was the next to take penalty kick for the Griffins, and his found the back of the net, setting the final margin.
Returning just three starters from last year’s team that posted 20 shutouts and made it to the semifinals of the Division 1 playoffs, Marina coach Jeff Schofield didn’t expect to be at Aliso Niguel on Monday night playing for a tournament championship.
“I thought it was going to takes a while to get in sync,” Schofield said. “But we have had a lot of guys step in and do a good job right away, but we need to be a bit more attack minded than we were tonight.”
In the Coronado Island Tournament:
No. 1 San Clemente 3, University of San Diego 0: Gage Zerboni scored two goals to lead the Tritons (5-0), who will face Carlsbad in the championship match Wednesday.