Playing without two of its starting strikers, the Arroyo Grande boys soccer team didn’t have enough firepower to keep up with Santa Barbara in Arroyo Grande on Wednesday night.
Santa Barbara (4-1-1) scored two second half goals, with the first goal coming on a flicked header on a set piece, and came away with the 2-0 win.
“I told them, ‘Keep your heads up, you played really well,’ ” Arroyo Grande first-year head coach Eliseo Romero said after the game.
Arroyo Grande (2-2) held Santa Barbara scoreless until a foul with 12 minutes to play in the game set up the first goal. Romero said he was happy with the play of Joe Goryance and Cesar Diaz, the Arroyo Grande center-backs, who kept the Dons attack at bay most of the night. Goryance led the Eagles with 11 takeaways.
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“Joe is our anchor back there,” Romero said. “He’s very versatile, because when we move him up, he’s instant offense.”
Trailing 1-0 with 10 minutes to play, Romero gambled a bit by moving Goryance up to striker to try to get the equalizer, but a counterattack goal by Santa Barbara with four minutes to play put the game out of reach.
Arroyo Grande managed five shots, a number that is sure to increase when the Matts return — strikers Matt Bautista and Matt Sill. Sill, who was the second-leading receiver on the Arroyo Grande football team, has been sidelined with an injury, and Bautista is finishing up his club season at a college showcase in South Carolina.
“Our dynamics will change completely,” Romero said, adding that he expects to have both players back in the coming weeks. “It will give us more depth and the ability to press more up top.”
For now, Arroyo Grande will need to rely on the play of its backline.
“We have all played together for quite a while,” Goryance said. “We have that chemistry.”
Goryance has played with Diaz on the Central Coast Condors for the past five years.
It doesn’t hurt to have a keeper like Elijah Herrera, who preserved a 0-0 halftime score by blocking a Santa Barbara penalty kick in the first half.
“Defense is our strength today, but I’m counting on our offense to be our strength as well,” Romero said. “Right now, I have to focus on what we do well.”