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Santa Ana earns tie with No. 1 San Clemente
SANTA ANA – One bounce of the ball either way and both San Clemente coach Mike Pronier and Santa Ana's Joe Penaflor would have had different feelings about Wednesday's nonleague soccer match.
Late in the second half, top-ranked San Clemente nearly had the potential winner, but had a shot hit off the crossbar, leading to the the Tritons (10-1-1) and the Saints (04-2) to settling for a 1-1 draw at Santa Ana Stadium.
"We work on finishing a lot," Pronier said. "Santa Ana did a great job to keep pressure and to keep going. If we're not going to put the ball in the net ... we have to learn to finish better than that."
Across the field, the effort was exactly what Penaflor had been looking for from his team this season.
"I was just looking for some energy," Penaflor said. "I found some players that played with energy today, for 80 minutes. Just going hard, no matter what the score was. I'm proud of the young guys. We had a freshman in goal and at sweeper.
"When that goal went in, we didn't put our heads down. That's what was happening earlier (this season). We found a little bit of fight. This is something that's very positive. We can do something with an effort like this."
Santa Ana led 1-0 at the half. Early in the second half, the Tritons scored the equalizer as senior defender Colin McDermott knocked in a goal from an angle, near the end line.
From that moment, the Saints had to withstand the constant offensive attack from the Tritons, led by Gage Zerboni. Penaflor credited the play of his center backs Jose Leal and Anthony Arellano for being able to survive the second half.
"They were throwing the body at everything, coming in sliding hard," Penaflor said. "That's a pretty good strike pair (forwards Zerboni and Blayne Martinez). I put them (Leal and Arellano) man on man with them and they held them pretty good. That's where I confidence came from, everybody knew if something went wrong, they (Leal and Arellano) were going to cover it."
The Tritons had 27 shots, according to Pronier.
"We came out with the right approach to the game, but our short passing, going into the offensive third, wasn't what it needed to be," Pronier said. "We kept going long when we got into the offensive third. I thought we did a better job with the short passes in the second half and created just as many opportunities.
"I liked that we came out with a little bit assertive effort in the second half. But you know, it is soccer ... Santa Ana kept working and this is a good tie for them."
Javier Rios gave the Saints a 1-0 lead when he scored off in the first half. Alonso Moran's free kick struck the post and rolled in the direction of Rios who put the ball into the open the net.