By Matthew Snyder
San Francisco International High School’s boys soccer team scored a goal in each half to emerge with a 2-0 win over Balboa on a damp Thursday afternoon at Franklin Square Park.
Both teams entered the game tied for fourth place in the Academic Athletic Association standings with just four games left to play in the regular season and it was the Huskies (6-3-2, 5-3-1) that picked up the crucial three points.
Balboa (4-4-1, 4-4-1), coming off an emphatic 5-2 victory over O’Connell on Tuesday, started as the stronger team.
Within the first seven minutes of play, the Bucs mustered four shots (three on target), with forwards Jose Meza and Nathan Tom giving the Huskies’ defense fits.
But SFI weathered the storm and began to grow into the game. Early in the first half, SFI’s Kerlin Buezo slipped a pass behind the Bucs’ defense for Medhanie Berih, but Berih could not convert his one-on-one chance with the goalkeeper.
In the 27th minute, Buezo took matters into his own hands when he collected a crossing pass from the right wing with his chest, then fired a left-footed shot past Balboa goalkeeper Carlos Orellana to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead with just their second shot on target.
“It’s pretty good for my kids,” said SFI head coach Angel Rodriguez. “We were pretty happy about the goal and even happier to get the win. We did a good job. I wish we could have done a little better in some areas, but it’s a win.”
Balboa had a golden chance to equalize just three minutes after going down a goal, when SFI was whistled for a handball in their own penalty area, resulting in a penalty kick. Alonzo Aguilera stepped up first to take the shot, but was overruled by teammate Edwin Bolanos.
Bolanos took a short run-up for the penalty kick, but despite SFI goalkeeper Kelvin Perez lunging the wrong way, his left-footed attemped caromed sharply off the right post and back into play, allowing SFI to clear.
The Bucs had 12 shots during the opening period, including eight on goal.
“I think that that was the difference in this game,” said Balboa head coach Juan Guzman. “They scored with their opportunities and we didn’t. We didn’t take care of our business.”
With sophomore forward Scharly Alvares leading the charge, the Huskies twice came close to scoring a second goal in the 58th and 61st minutes, but both times Orellana produced outstanding saves to deny them.
After yet another stop by Orellana, SFI’s pressure finally paid off. Berih, who shrugged off an apparent thigh injury late in the first half, scored from close range off a corner kick from Migdael Tevalan.
With just over 15 minutes to play, SFI had a priceless second goal. That second conceded goal finally kicked Balboa into gear, and midfielder Cesar Morales’s left-footed shot from 25 yards out skipped twice on the slick surface before hitting the right post. But like the first-half penalty, it bounced harmlessly away.
The Bucs pressed hard for goals in the final portions of the game, but came away unsuccessful.
“In the last 15 to 20 minutes of the game, we were dominating, which lifted the spirits and momentum of the team,” Guzman said. “But like I said, we didn’t take care of business.”