NORTHRIDGE, Calif. – El Clasico between Santa Clarita Storm and Valley United in Northridge on Saturday ended goalless after an exciting match that saw the Storm with a sluggish start to open their United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) regular season.
The Storm (0-0-1, 1 point) found their bearing after yielding six corner kicks in the first 15 minutes to start their UPSL campaign only to go on an attacking display that saw their footballers’ stone walled by Valley United (0-0-1, 1 point) keeper Casey Phillips and multiple bad calls by the referees go against them including a goal called back.
It was an epic battle between Storm striker Brett Croft and Phillips that was eventually won by the keeper and his reward a clean sheet. Phillips an X-Storm keeper was the Man of the Match saving multiple direct shots from the Storm including a powerful shot by Croft from 15 yards out that was saved by his finger tips sending the ball away from danger.
In the 40th minute Croft was issued a yellow card for dissent after the sideline judge had raised his flag for offside on a play at the end line. “I thought there was no way I was offside so I said are you kidding me to him (sideline judge), how did you make that call” said Croft. “Then he went right away to the center ref and they gave me a card.”
With one card in the books the referees quickly called a second on the Storm in the 42nd minute after Storm defender Anthony Armbuster made a hard tackle that resulted in the second yellow card being issued to the visitors. The Storm did not put their heads down in the face of adversity yet the cards fired them up as they controlled possession for the last 75 minutes of the game attacking at will.
“We started slow but we were on them big time in the second half, I think we worked really hard, had them on their toes and had chances just got to put one away to win” said Croft. “Unfortunately calls didn’t go our way and goals didn’t go our way so zero zero but we played really hard and good comeback.”
The Storm were most enraged with the referees in the second half when Zach Klindworth received a pass across the field from the right side hooking up with Croft who came back onside before receiving the ball. Then using his toe to flick the ball pass Phillips for what appeared to be a potential game winning goal only to have a late flag raised during their jubilation for offside.
An angry Storm benched yelled at the referees and pleaded with them to no avail with the league not set up for instant reply just yet. The no goal was the result of a tactical change by Storm head coach Oscar Moreno that had him shift his formation adding Klindworth to the front attacking creating more scoring chances.
“In the second half their back line tired out and they switched to three in the back so it was easy to get at them” said Klindworth. “It’s unfortunate we had three or four chances to score but they held their own, it was a good game hopefully we will get them next time at the home game.”
A highlight save was made by Phillips when Croft had made some moves past the defenders causing Phillips to go down to stop a low shot. Croft volleyed the ball over Phillips only to see him reach up from the ground and swat the ball away. Phillips finished the night stopping a few Klindworth blast as well.
Next up for the Storm will be their home opener against Banning FC on May 17 at Golden Valley High School.
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