By Steve Breazeale
From the opening whistle of Thursday’s South Coast League match at Capistrano Valley High School, it was apparent that the San Clemente boys soccer team was playing in another gear.
The Tritons flashed speed and ball control throughout the opening 40 minutes of play, scoring two goals and dominating possession in what turned into a 3-1 victory over the Cougars.
San Clemente (13-5-3, 5-0-1 league) pressed high up the field, taking shots at will while setting the Cougars (8-4-2, 1-2-1) defense on their heels.
After taking three corner kicks within the first 15 minutes of play, the Tritons fourth corner attempt resulted in a loose ball in front of the net. San Clemente senior Eddie Molina took advantage and scored to give the Tritons an early 1-0 lead at the 18-minute mark.
San Clemente continued to press and continuously won balls at midfield to keep their attack alive.
In the 37th minute, a streaking Matias Ledesma jumped out in front of a Tritons counter attack and corralled a wide through ball with just the Cougars goalie to beat. Ledesma slid the ball past to give San Clemente a 2-0 advantage just before halftime.
San Clemente outshot Capo Valley 12-2 in the opening 40 minutes and 21-8 over the full 80 minutes.
“It was their quickness to the ball. Their bite on their tackles was really quick and they weren’t sitting around waiting for things to happen, they went after the game,” San Clemente head coach Mike Pronier said. “I’m excited about that. Whatever the soccer is that we’re playing, energy like that is going to win us games”
An unassisted Joe Iorio goal gave the Tritons a 3-0 lead in the 53rd minute.
Capistrano Valley mounted a comeback with 20 minutes to go, scoring their lone goal in the 60th minute.
The Tritons win came on the heels of a two-match winless streak. The Tritons drew with league opponent Mission Viejo and lost to El Toro in a nonleague contest, respectively. Before the two-game skid the Tritons had won eight straight games. The win over the Cougars now gives San Clemente a four-game cushion in the standings.
“We had to win this game if we wanted a chance at winning league. And now, we don’t play for another week, we can sit back and sort of see what happens and maybe get a little breathing room,” Pronier said.