For a team to reach its potential, it needs to recognize and capitalize on its strengths.
The Los Gatos High boys soccer team knows it often has a size advantage when it takes the field, which lends itself well to being dangerous on set pieces. How the team fares this season will largely be predicated on scoring off set pieces and getting tighter defensively, especially in and around the 18-yard box.
While the latter leaves much to be desired, the former was on point in the Wildcats’ 3-2 comeback win over Fremont High of Sunnyvale in a Santa Clara Valley Athletic League El Camino Division match on Jan. 5.
All three Los Gatos goals came off set pieces, including two in the final seven minutes that turned what looked to be a bitter defeat into a thrilling victory. Two days later, the Wildcats (4-3-1 overall, 1-1-0 league) defeated Soquel to climb back over the .500 mark.
“We have the type of players that can be dangerous on set pieces because they’re big and physical and they’re good in the air,” Wildcats coach Joel Fumia said. “We may not be the most pretty soccer playing team, but we know we have some big athletic kids that can do well on those balls served in the air, so certainly that’s a big part for us that we need to be good on and to get results. And certainly three goals on three set pieces is pretty awesome.”
Standout forward Brady Kamali scored two goals, including the equalizer in the 74th minute on a beautiful diving header in the penalty area. Then in stoppage time, Sam Pearman rose above the crowd to head a ball in for the game-winner.
Matt Chase assisted on all three goals, the first on a corner kick that Kamali somehow got through traffic and the last two on free kicks 5-10 yards outside the left back corner of the 18-yard box. Chase played well during the run of play, and his impact on set pieces was monumental as he delivered pinpoint balls on the feet or head of his teammates.
“Certainly a point of emphasis of training when we started out is to be good on set pieces,” Fumia said. “And that’s not only attacking and scoring goals but also defending set pieces. Just making sure we’re organized and maybe having some set plays.”
Fumia expects Fremont to be one of the better sides in the El Camino Division, which is why winning the match was important. Plus, the Wildcats dropped their league opener to Saratoga and if they expect to contend for a top-tier finish, they need to start earning the maximum points available.
“We certainly wanted to come out with a result being at home,” Fumia said. “Whether it’s a tie or a win and obviously a win is fantastic because it’s three points and now you’re back in it. It’s still early but you don’t want to fall too far behind, and I think Fremont will be one of the better teams in the league based on what I’ve seen. I think we’re starting to find our groove a little more and our last few games have been good.”
Fumia was pleased that he received contributions from everyone who got on the field, a testament to the depth of the team. That included the players already mentioned and also Drew Dillehay, Alex Cross, Flavio Barney Santiago, Chase Hinson, Isaac Tamayo-Sarver and Sam Tamayo-Sarver, just to name a handful.
Goalkeeper Zed Fallside also made some nice saves and played well, though Fumia expects Fallside to be more vocal going forward.
“Obviously, if you build a keeper in the lab one of the things you want them to do is you want them to have a presence and be vocal, directing, leading, communicating,” Fumia said. “That’s key, quality characteristics of a goalie and something he needs to get better at. It’s a good learning experience for him. But he did well, made some good saves and hung in there.”
Fumia was proud of the players for battling and overcoming a tough break when an offsides call negated what would’ve been the go-ahead goal early in the second half. Fremont scored in the 68th minute to take a 2-1 lead before the Wildcats’ late game flurry.
It was no surprise Kamali had an impact, as he drew fouls that set up several corner and free kicks.
“Brady is one of the top players I foresee in the league,” Fumia said. “He’s got pace, he’s strong, he can strike the ball and he’s good in the air. Him getting fouled was big because it did set up some of our set pieces which was what got us back in the game. There’s always a chance if you can get it around here [the 18-yard box] and convert.”