Grace Christian has no problem vs. defending champs
It didn't mean as much as if Grace Christian had been able to defeat Greenfield School the last time the two schools met on a soccer field. The Crusaders (13-2-1) hosted and beat the defending state champion Knights (2-8) 3-0 Thursday afternoon in a rematch of Greenfield's 1-0 win in the NCISAA 1A state final from last November.
The Crusaders ran their winning streak to nine and took their shutout streak to four matches, outshooting the Knights 35-1 overall and 13-0 in shots on goal.
It took until into the second half before the Crusaders made their dominance pay off on the scoreboard, with goals by Ricardo Castanedas and Jose Leonidez coming in the first 17 minutes of the second half to make it 3-0 Crusaders. The Knights, a very different team than the state champs a year ago due to graduated seniors, made the game tough - at least anything within 40 yards of their goal - for the Crusaders but didn't threaten the Crusader goal in the 80 minutes.
The Crusaders opened up looking like they would have little problem finding the net multiple times, getting four shots and three corner kicks in the first six minutes.
In the 10th minute, Salvador Leonidez controlled the ball in midfield and connected with a long ball to Castanedas making a run toward the left side of the Greenfield box. Castanedas hit a sharp cross from the end line across the goal and Evan Kannarr was in the perfect spot for a point-blank header and a goal.
The Crusader midfield kept the possession and attacks, although mostly with long-range shots, throughout the half. Greenfield, with an organized defense, but not with a complete, 11-man bunker, held the Crusaders at bay, just enough, to keep a one-goal margin.
The Crusaders got enough cushion to put the match out of reach after halftime. Going from four backs to three, and with the outside backs still contributing to the ball movement and Crusader possession, Grace Christian made the pressure pay eventually.
In the 45th minute, Castanedas slammed in a rebounded ball from short range for a goal. Jose Leonidez set up the chance in the penalty area with a run down the left flank and a good cross to Kannarr inside the six-yard box. Kannarr's shot hit a Knight defender and Castanedas finished with an open shot.
Jose Leonidez scored the third Crusader goal in the 57th minute, driving a low, hard strike from the left side of the Knight box into the net.
The Crusaders, playing a third match in four days, travel to play Carolina Christian Conference foe Northwood Temple at 4 p.m. today. The Crusaders, the defending CCC champs, are 5-0-0 in conference with four matches to play.