On the strength of two Cristian Hernandez goals and pressure defense, Carson High’s boys soccer team has survived to play another day.
Hernandez scored twice in the first half, and Arnaldo Diaz added a score late in the second half as Carson opened the playoffs with a 3-0 shutout over North Valleys Tuesday night.
The win moves Carson into the semifinals against Spanish Springs at 4:15 p.m. Thursday at Damonte Ranch. Spanish Springs beat Carson 2-1 earlier this year.
Coach Mehdi Samii was pleased with his team’s effort, especially in the first half.
“I think we had a fantastic first half the way we spread the field,” Samii said. “We didn’t play that well in the second half. We just did counters, but we did so well in the first half it carried us to the win.
“Cristian played so well. He was the player of the game. He was totally unselfish. He set up so many chances for us. I think this was his best game of the year.”
Both of his goals were impressive.
In the 16th minute, Hernandez took a through-ball from Ryan Galvan, and found himself surrounded by three North Valley defenders. Hernandez spun out of immediate danger and uncorked a shot that somehow found the upper right-hand corner of the net to give the Senators a 1-0 lead.
“I saw the three defenders,” Hernandez said. “I turned, saw an open space and took advantage of it. I thought it was going over (the crossbar), but it dropped down in the top right corner.”
In the next 12 minutes, Carson had three good looks at the goal (Hernandez, Zach Smith and Galvan), but was unable to convert. North Valleys had one good attempt that was actually blocked by defender Milton Rodriguez, who was behind goalkeeper Gustavo Villagrana.
Hernandez’s second goal came in the 29th minute on a free kick following a North Valleys foul. The Carson standout put it in the upper right corner.
“The goalie set up the wall in front of him, so he really couldn’t see,” Hernandez said. “It made it pretty easy.”
Carson had 7-3 edge in shots in the first 40 minutes, and that margin grew to 9-3 when Galvan had two good looks in the first seven minutes of the second half. The first was a header that went wide left. The second came off a pass from Hernandez and missed the mark.
North Valleys started to apply some offensive pressure, and twice Villagrana deflected shots over the crossbar. Before that Khalil Kurt had a shot blocked in the box, and then Mel Arizpe and Juan Camarena were turned away by Villagrana.
It was after Camarena’s miss that Carson cemented the game when Diaz beat the NV goalie to make it 3-0 in the 72nd minute.
One key to the win was the defensive efforts of Zach Smith, Rodriquez, Adam Shoaf, Angel Gomez and midfielder Miguiel Ortiz. As a whole team, Carson pressured North Valleys the entire length of the field, which is something that he Senators hadn’t done very often.
“I just felt if we put pressure on them we could force them into mistakes,” Samii said. “The kids have fantastic footwork and know what to do with the ball when they get it.”
Ortiz said another key was the North Valleys goalie.
“He didn’t try to kick the ball long, so we were able to push up defensively,” Ortiz said. “This was a good start. If we keep playing our game, it will be tough for teams to beat us.”
Spanish Springs was one of three teams to pin a 2-1 loss on Carson. Obviously the Senators want some payback, and this time the stakes are big. A win on Thursday means a second consecutive trip to the state playoffs.
“We lost three games — 2-1 to Wooster, 2-1 to Spanish Springs and 2-1 to Hug — so it’s not like we’re getting blown out,” Samii said. “We had just as many chances as they did in those losses. It’s going to be a tough game.”
“We have one of the best defenses in Northern Nevada,” Ortiz said. “If we play like we’re capable of playing, we have a great chance to win. It will be a great match.”