AMERICANCANYON – The American Canyon boys soccer team had many opportunities Tuesday evening, but just couldn’t find the back of the net.
The Wolves fell 1-0 to Vallejo at Wolf Den Stadium in a hard-fought slugfest of two of the top teams in the Solano County Athletic Conference.
“They capitalized on one of the few opportunities they had,” American Canyon head coach Gabriel Zepeda said. “We had a few chances tonight, but we didn’t make it in and that’s how it rolls.”
The Wolves are still in contention for the third and final playoff spot in the SCAC, though a victory or tie against Vallejo would have given them some breathing room before their final two contests.
“We just need to get to playoffs,” American Canyon goalkeeper Sucre Herrera said. “Only two games left to do that.”
Tuesday was the first game all season that the Wolves have lost at home. American Canyon had chances to pull out the draw, but wasn’t able to crack the Red Hawks’ strong defensive backfield.
Vallejo has given up only two goals during all of conference play, both against the Wolves earlier in the season.
“This game was much better than the last time we played them,” Zepeda said. “Even though we lost, it was a physical game and we knew Vallejo was a strong team.”
The visitors scored in quick fashion, as in the sixth minute Jose Lopez took an unexpected shot from deep outside the box on the left side and buried it in the right corner of the net. The goal was the first shot of the game for either squad, and the Red Hawks went on to dominate shot totals for the game. Vallejo took 21 shots, with nine finding the frame. The Wolves took only 13 shots, with four finding the gloves of net minder Cesar Giron.
“I feel like we gave it our all, but it was a little too late,” Herrera said. “We had a slow start and we left everything out on the field tonight.”
American Canyon was able to attempt only four shots in the first half but was more active in the second half, with major opportunities from striker Luis Flores and its own Jose Lopez. Outside of a few plays, Vallejo kept the duo quiet for most of the contest.
“We always encourage our guys to take shots from outside the box,” Zepeda said. “We only had about two tonight. We have scored many goals from outside. They needed to trust themselves and make more plays.”
The Wolves were able to shut down Vallejo’s senior star forward, George Binda, for most of the evening. The former basketball player showed impressive moves, but was held out of the goal column.
Key in keeping American Canyon in the contest was Herrera, as the young goalkeeper turned into a wall after allowing the early goal. The sophomore, who finished with eight saves, was forced to make many one-on-one plays to keep the Wolves within a goal.
“He is a great goalkeeper and he saved us tonight. They could have had a few more goals,” Zepeda said. “He did his part tonight, and we need the rest of the guys to step up. We can’t just rely on a goalkeeper to keep us in the game.”
Herrera will be a solid piece for American Canyon to build around next season as it heads out into the new world of the North Coast Section. The Wolves will be losing most of their roster to graduation after this season and will need to retool if they hope to be one of the top squads in the Vine Valley Athletic League next season.
American Canyon will be joined in the league by Justin-Siena, Napa, Vintage, Petaluma, Casa Grande and Sonoma Valley. Throughout the years Napa, Vintage and Casa Grande have been known to sport some of the top boys soccer teams in the North Bay.
“We need to make sure the guys get their confidence back again,” Zepeda said. “They are a good group of players, but unfortunately I have only played one game this season that has had my full starting lineup. Injuries or not, we have to do our jobs to keep playing.”
Vallejo was able to force American Canyon to the outside all evening, controlling the middle of the field for most of the contest. The Wolves struggled on set pieces, firing off seven corner kicks for the game and two free kicks near the box.
“I don’t think we had enough tonight,” Zepeda said.
The Wolves were coming off Friday’s 3-3 tie against Bethel at Corbus Field in Vallejo, getting goals from Flores, Isaac Hernandez and Adrian Ayala.
American Canyon (6-4-5, 3-2-3 SCAC) hosts winless Vanden in Thursday’s Senior Night game, and visits fourth-place Fairfield (4-4 SCAC) next Tuesday. The Wolves beat each team 4-1 in the first half of SCAC play, and getting past them again should put them in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs one final time.
“We just need to focus and take it one game at a time,” Zepeda said.