Espinoza Rescues Nitros

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Given what was at stake, the gravity of the situation became critical for the Glendale High boys’ soccer team after a first-half goal by Muir, and an expiring clock.

The mood changed dramatically when the Nitros tied the score on Kelby Hernandez’s goal off a rebound six minutes into the second half, and relief when Rick Espinoza nailed the go-ahead goal from 10 yards with 12 minutes showing after a failed attempt by defenseman Eddy Torres, and then added an insurance tally seven minutes later, helping the Nitros to a 3-1 Pacific League win last Friday at Moyse Field.

Two games remain for Glendale, which assured itself a CIF Southern Section playoff spot.

“We wanted to come out and have a different attitude in the second half,’’ said Espinoza, a senior midfielder, who now has four goals. “This was a tough and physical game.”

Levon Sargsyan is Glendale’s leading scorer, and was happy for Espinoza. “I love scoring, but I also love passing the ball,’’ he said. “I’ll give it to anyone who is open and has the best opportunity.”

The Mustangs (6-6-3 and 5-4-3 in league) were feisty and willing to play a rough-and ready style, especially forward Victor Lugo, who used every part of his body to gain the upper hand.

The Nitros (9-1-7 and 6-1-5 in league) were coming off their worst effort, falling 6-0 on the road to Burroughs. “We weren’t ready to play,’’ said Glendale Head Coach Tulio Marroquin. “The field was real grass and choppy.’’

With 16 minutes left before the half, Muir’s Jorge Castro missed from close range, and with the ball in front of the net, Glendale goalie Aris Yeghiazaryn came out too early, and when he did, Lugo’s rocket from 10 yards found the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.

“In the first half we gave them too much room,’’ said Marroquin. “We had opportunites, but we made too many mistakes. It was a defensive game. When we scored that [tying]goal, we felt good. The second goal was important.”

James Mizuki was in goal for Glendale in the second half, and he blanked the Mustangs. “I always like coming in and playing defense,’’ said the senior. “I had a good half.”

When asked if he’d prefer to play the entire match, Mizuki was diplomatic. “I’d like to play all the time, but I do what the coach wants. It’s different all the time.”

Three minutes before the tie-breaking goal, Lester Portillo’s kick from 30 yards was stopped by Muzuki.

Two minutes prior, Muir’s Alejandro Moctezuma was given a yellow card, but Pedro Salinas saw his penalty kick from 44 yards sail off the mark.

Sargsyan and Alan Ghazarian each had attempts from 10 yards miss with 23 minutes left, and Artur Nazarian’s blast from 20 yards hit the right post a minute later.

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