The conditions at Irvine High's football stadium were cold, wet and downright miserable. But Fountain Valley's players shrugged them off as the Barons sloshed their way to a 4-1 victory over Irvine in the second round of the Southern Section Division I boys' soccer playoffs.
Fourth-seeded Fountain Valley (18-2-3) had Irvine (12-3-4) on the ropes early--taking advantage of two poor clearing passes by Irvine defenders to score twice in the first 15 minutes on goals by Aaron Siemers and Matt Fluck. From there, Fountain Valley simply played keepaway from Irvine striker Matt Taylor, who entered Wednesday's game as the county's leading scorer with 37 goals.
"Was it an ideal situation with the field? No," Fountain Valley Coach Jason Smith said. "But we were ready for anything. I wouldn't want to play us right now. We're jelling and we're playing with a lot of confidence."
Irvine, which won its first league title in 17 years and finished the regular season ranked eighth in the county, had plenty of confidence coming in. But the two early goals seemed to take away the Vaqueros' spirit.
"I don't think they really got into the flow of it," said Fountain Valley forward Cliff McKinley, who assisted on Siemers' second goal that made it 3-0. "Our defense marked up great once we got the lead."
Wednesday's game was built up as a shootout between Taylor and McKinley, UCLA signees who had 64 goals between them. But the sloppy field never allowed either to do what he does best--beat defenders with speed.
Taylor scored his 38th in the 75th minute when he back-headed a ball over goalkeeper Kyle Polak's head, but that only made it 3-1.
"I feel bad for Matt," said Irvine assistant P.J. Polowski, filling in for Coach Rich Breza, who had a playing obligation in England. "I wish he could have gone farther. Matty played his tail off. He did anything he could to help his team today."
Said Taylor, whose face was caked with mud: "They were able to clear the ball and they got a couple lucky bounces. They just outplayed us in the mud."
Fountain Valley, which plays the winner of today's Santa Ana-Lynwood game, outshot Irvine, 13-5.
In other Division I games:
Esperanza 1, Etiwanda 0--Mike O'Donnell scrambled for a loose ball in mud and water and popped the ball into the net from 10 feet out in the 28th minute of the first half. Luke Sargent had two saves for Esperanza (19-6-3), which plays in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Santa Monica 4, Century 0--Goalie Christian Lopez made seven saves for host Century (11-8-3). Martin Zarate scored two goals for Santa Monica (26-1).