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Struthers steps up to lead San Clemente
SAN CLEMENTE – As a senior team captain for San Clemente, Gage Zerboni feels different when he steps onto the field.
He cares more now than he did in the past, knowing that the Tritons are looking for him to post another 50-plus point season.
Jst 30 seconds into San Clemente’s boys soccer season opener, he took aim at the goal, outshooting any other Triton finishing Tuesday’s match.
But it was Dylan Struthers who provided the two goals that led No. 1 San Clemente to a 3-1 nonleague victory against Corona del Mar.
Struthers is supposed to be a left back for the Tritons, but San Clemente coach Mike Pronier moved Struthers to outside midfielder Tuesday to replace an injured starter.
“It was exciting for him. He wanted it today. He practiced well this week,” Pronier said. “It is fun to have kids like that score because it will build his confidence.”
In the 12th minute Struthers gave the Tritons the lead after Zerboni lofted a corner kick to the far side of the 6-yard box. Collin McDermott got a head on the ball, but a Sea Kings defender knocked the shot away. Struthers was there to pick up the rebound for the Tritons (1-0) and score his first goal of the game.
His second goal, which turned out to be the game winner, came in the 61st minute when he drilled a shot inside the near post from 15 yards out.
In the final minute of extra time, Jack Nowak outsprinted two San Clemente defenders on a counterattack and scored for the Sea Kings (0-1).
“I felt the work rate with the kids tonight was really good. We played fairly organized, and it was nice to see us have a spirited first effort,” Pronier said. “For our first game, that was all right.”
Zerboni finished with eight shots. Had his 20-yard free kick in the first half been a few inches lower, he would have left this match with at least one goal.
But the ball clanked off the face of the cross bar.
Pronier is expecting another big season out of the Register All-County First Team selection last year, and thinks he has another 20-goal, 51-point season in him once again.
“The potential is there,” Pronier said. “You saw it tonight.”
He had two shots turned away by Hagan Truniger, who made six saves for the Sea Kings, and both times Truniger just got a hand on Zerboni’s shot.
“I hope he can out do what he did last year,” Pronier said. “But there are other kids on this team who can score.”
Pronier thinks the Tritons can have at least two other players besides Zerboni who end up with 10 or more goals this year. Their best chances came when the Tritons sped up their pace and moved the ball quickly down the field with one- and two-touch passes.
It is something the Tritons work on a lot in practice, Pronier said.
“These kids are good and they have good skill, but sometimes they want to slow it down when they shouldn’t,” Pronier said. “If we play one- and two-touch soccer off the forward’s feet, we should do well.”
In other boys soccer:
Brea Olinda 3, Centennial of Corona 2: Lance Halm scored two goals and Ryan Marris added two assists for the host Wildcats (1-0).