Giovanna Z. Rinaldo
The Leopards tasted their first defeat of the season after four undefeated conference games, in the 1-0 matchup against Redlands Wednesday at Ortmayer Stadium.
Playing with 10 men since the 33rd minute when senior midfielder Justin Almandinger was sent off with a straight red for a slide tackle, La Verne still managed to balance the game and be the superior team despite the one-man disadvantage.
“I thought we played very well, I thought we were very organized, I thought we were undisciplined at times,” head coach Trevor Persson said. “Given we went down a man 30 minutes into the game I thought we responded very well and outshot them and outperformed them for the remaining 60 minutes.”
Creating several chances and building intense pressure, while also taking advantage of corner opportunities, the Leopards were closer to an equalizer than the Bulldogs were to increasing their lead.
“We definitely had a positive showing toward the end, I think we definitely worked as a team and pressured Redlands toward the last whole half of the game,” said senior defender Ferdinand Estrada. “We can definitely take a lot of positives out of this. We worked as a team and we had them against the ropes to tie the game. They know.”
The first 15 minutes had high-pressing from both sides, and while the Bulldogs developed most of their plays from the laterals, especially their left-hand side. The Leopards were versatile in their playmaking from both sides as well as the center.
Just as the home team was gaining momentum, Redlands was awarded the opportunity to score from the penalty mark. Junior forward Alexander Knox aimed at the left-hand side of La Verne’s sophomore goalkeeper Josh Ramirez, who chose the correct side but could not prevent the goal.
With the sending off of Almandinger soon after, the Leopards saw their attacking volume decrease and the intensity of the game along with it.
In addition, the 21 total foul calls made the game flow choppy with several interruptions.
“We didn’t really have to change anything defensively, we just had to try to link up more and keep possession with us and remain composed, and not stress out,” said senior midfielder Briley Venti. “We dropped a forward back and we played a 4-4-1 so we had eight men behind the ball at all times.”
Although the disadvantage was significant, La Verne adapted well and managed to compete on equal terms with the Bulldogs.
“It was some adversity we had to adapt to, mostly we just had to run a little more, which is not a problem,” Estrada said. “While it did affect us, in the end we did still execute our game plan, the result just wasn’t what we hoped.”
In the second half, not only did Redlands fail to capitalize on its advantage, but they also allowed the Leopards to establish themselves in the game and generate attacking power and pressure.
“It was mostly due to our backline,” Estrada said. “Trevor is huge on organization and shifting in the correct location, so while we were a player down, we were just in the right spots at the right times. And it was easy from there to just keep them out of the goal at that point.”
La Verne was close to tying the game several times, and the last five minutes were of intense pressure and persistence.
While the equalizer did not come, the home team accumulated eight shots during the 90 minutes, and created seven corner opportunities throughout the match.
“We had to make some tactical changes to keep us moving in a positive direction and I think the moves that we made played out very well,” Persson said. “We just didn’t get the game-tying goal that we needed.”
With the defeat, the Leopards now have a 3-1-1 record in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and 5-1-1 overall.
“Unfortunately we lost, I thought we played really well, but just couldn’t find ways to get a win today,” Venti said.
Persson’s team has a total of 17 goals scored and six conceded in seven games.
The Leopards’ next match will be at 7 p.m. Saturday at Ortmayer Stadium against the Whittier Poets.
Giovanna Z. Rinaldo can be reached at email@example.com.