The Fresno City College men’s soccer team continued their charge through playoff competition with their 1-0 win over Hartnell College on Tuesday, Nov. 26. The FCC footballers’ third straight win was also their second in their 2019 playoff campaign.
Entering the match on Tuesday, the Rams were fresh off of a pair of successful matches that turned around the shaky end of their season that saw them post a 3-1-4 record in their final eight games.
“The game plan was really to just keep doing the things we did well in our last game,” said head coach Eric Solberg.
That last game was a 2-0 victory over Cabrillo College in the first round of the Northern California Regionals, but the second round placed the Rams against a Hartnell squad with an 11-6-3 record.
“We knew they were going to clog the middle of the field, so we needed to do one touch in the middle and bring it out wide. That’s exactly what we did in the first half,” said Solberg.
FCC was in the driver’s seat in the first half of the match. The Rams were dividing the Panthers’ defense with their middle-out approach and dissecting the field with well-timed passes met with soft, controlled touches and footwork.
The Rams were finally looking like the same team that outscored opponents 25-1 through their first 12 matches.
“We thought they might sit a little bit, and they did early, but our energy was really good early on in the game. It just felt like it was coming and it finally did,” said Solberg.
FCC was finally successful with a scoring opportunity when sophomore forward Michael Vega’s deflected shot on goal was headed back into the goal by sophomore forward Mason Gonzalez at 27:00. Vega was credited with the assist, and the Rams went into halftime on top 1-0.
Although they didn’t play up to the same level in the second half, FCC’s control was replaced with a gritty energy that also hadn’t been seen at home since their win against Folsom Lake College on Oct. 25.
The team’s turnaround adds to their roller coaster narrative this season, but Solberg attributes it entirely to the players. “I think these guys understand who we are and where we are. I feel like we’re getting some energy as we come down the stretch, for sure,” he said.
“You can tell they’ve flipped the switch. You can tell in practice, just by how they’re talking to each other,” said Solberg.
Being able to shift gears and perform to potential when it’s expected has been built into the program at FCC. A winning culture has become a well-communicated tradition that’s hammered home when players are recruited to the team.
“When guys come here, they expect to get deep in the playoffs and have a run. To be honest with you, that’s the reason the majority of them are here,” he said.
The Rams will try to go even further into the playoffs in their home match against eleventh-seeded San Joaquin Delta College on Saturday, Nov. 30.