LA CRESCENTA -- Crescenta Valley’s Pavle Atanackovic broke a scoreless tie in the 66th minute to give his team a 1-0 win over Diamond Bar in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 4 boys soccer playoffs on Tuesday.
He has scored all four goals for Crescenta Valley in the playoffs, but he had to work hard for his only goal against Diamond Bar.
“We felt it coming,” Crescenta Valley coach Grant Clark said. “When the goal finally went in, we changed our formation a little bit, to be a little bit more compacted in the middle of the field. It seemed to open up things more for us. It helped with the tension level. It helped with the confidence. As soon as that goal went in, we have great confidence in the back. They do a fabulous job. We felt that was what we needed.”
Moments before Atanackovic scored his goal, Erick Trejo blasted a shot off the crossbar. Crescenta Valley had another scoring chance early in the second half, but the ball that scraped the crossbar and went over the goal.
Both teams had their chances to score. Crescenta Valley goalkeeper Nick Ruiz made a few diving saves. Diamond Bar’s defense clogged up their goal box and made it difficult for the Crescenta Valley forwards to take shots.
“I thought both teams played hard,” Diamond Bar coach Kemp Wells said. “I knew what style they were going to play because we played them last year. They’re very physical. Our guys should have been ready for that, which they were for the most part.”
Physical play dominated the game. But it wasn’t until there was three minutes left in regulation that the referees issued the first yellow card. Crescenta Valley’s Brian Ju was penalized for a hard tackle and was forced out of the game.
Having to sit Ju, one of Crescenta Valley’s best defenders, in the final minutes was not what Clark wanted.
“We were a little concerned,” Clark said. “At the same time, the guys that we put in do a nice job. We just made some adjustments. For one person going out, we have a solution for that.”
Diamond Bar (11-10-2) ended its season with one of its best runs in nearly two decades.
“The first time in 17 years we made it to the second round,” Wells said. “The first time in 10 years we have won league. It’s been an amazing run. I’ve felt we’ve had more talented teams in the past, but these guys just play their guts out.”
Crescenta Valley (18-0-6), the fourth-seeded team in the Division 4 playoffs, kept its undefeated season intact.
“We have a short rest,” Clark said. “We have to come back on Thursday. There’s no time to really work on stuff.”