By Aaron Valdez
In a highly competitive Rio Hondo League, the Monrovia boys’ soccer team can’t afford to slip up not even one game.
Fortunately for the Wildcats, they were able to get the job done on Tuesday after an erratic first half in their 3-0 road win over San Marino.
In a season full of ups and downs that has the team sitting on a middling 6-6-3 record, the time has come for the Wildcats to find a reliable winning formula for Rio Hondo League action.
Coming off a 1-1 draw with La Canada in its first league match on Saturday, Monrovia earned its first victory as it defeated a scrappy San Marino side. Despite San Marino having never been a historically strong team in the Rio Hondo League, Monrovia Head Coach Andrew Barajas said this was still a must-win.
“I think we could’ve played a little better,” Barajas said. “Our players went in thinking that it was going to be a walk in the park … But we got the win so that’s the most important thing out of it all.”
The importance of this win stems from the fact that four teams are all in contention for the league title this season, including Temple City (2-0), La Canada (1-0-1), South Pasadena (1-1) and of course, Monrovia (1-0-1). The victories over the bottom dwellers of the league will pay many dividends during the final stretch.
In the first half on Tuesday, the Wildcats had a shaky start as each side struggled to find its rhythm, much less the back of the net. However, Monrovia took control of the game in the second half by using their physicality in the middle and on defense.
Monrovia’s Gordon Sheppard displayed great leadership in the midfield by heavily disrupting San Marino’s offense and by being the decisive link between the defense and offense. He was even rewarded with a goal to put Monrovia up 2-0 late in the second half.
While the Wildcats did walk away with the 3-0 shutout, Barajas said he is still concerned about his team’s consistency issues.
“For some reason, when we play against stronger teams, I believe we are at where I want us to be. But when we play against teams where we underestimate them, we start playing at a lower level than what we should be playing at,” Barajas said.
Monrovia will continue their road swing when it takes on Blair (0-2) on Friday at 3 p.m.