By Jeremy Balan
San Francisco International High School was only two loud thuds away from seriously threatening Lowell’s monstrous Academic Athletic Association boys soccer win streak on Thursday.
The sounds came from two long-distance SFI shots that struck the Lowell goal frame, and the Cardinals capitalized on late opportunities to seal a 3-0 win over the visiting Huskies for their 40th straight AAA victory.
Lowell (2-0-2, 2-0-0) held an immediate advantage after a goal from senior captain Zachary Weisenburger in the sixth minute and the Huskies’ (2-1-1, 1-1-0) first encounter with the goalpost game in the 26th.
SFI junior forward Scharly Alvarez took a touch pass from Edgar Castillo and found space in the middle of the field, then connected with the left goalpost on a shot from 25 yards out.
The second came off the foot of senior forward Osmar Zapotecas from 30 yards out in the 43rd minute. Zapotecas’ lofted free kick appeared to be destined for the top-right corner of the net, but clanked off the crossbar and away from the goal.
“It was 3-0, but they had two balls that went off the post. You can just as easily say that they could have been up 2-1 at that point,” said Lowell head coach Marcos Estebez. “That would have changed the game immensely. One goal can be a huge swing in this kind of a game.”
With SFI pressing forward, trying to equalize late in the second half, speedy Lowell junior forward Eli Alperin scored two goals off transition counter-attacks in the 72nd and 78th minutes to put the game away.
Although the Huskies largely played even with the Cardinals throughout, the difference was opportunities close to the net. Lowell didn’t have an overwhelming amount of chances close to the net, but had more than the Huskies, who could not get into a position to score in the penalty area.
Anchored by senior defender Avery Fisher, a four-year starter, the Cardinals’ back line cleared away any threats near the Lowell net.
“Avery is an absolute manager,” Estebez said. “He has a lot of experience as a senior and you can just see his calm and his presence, and his ability to direct traffic back there. To be able to have a field leader like that is just huge.”
Even though all of SFI’s scoring opportunities were from distance, there was still a sense the game was a missed opportunity for the school that only began to play varsity athletics just over a year ago.
“The two goalposts — we don’t have good luck, I guess,” first-year SFI head coach Angel Rodriguez said with a sigh. “But they had two goals on our mistakes. We can [play with] Lowell, but we can’t if we make those mistakes.”