The Mira Costa boys soccer team was a motivated group as it stepped on the field Tuesday.
The Mustangs were facing Palos Verdes, a team that had defeated them earlier this season and that is ranked second in this week’s CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll.
Some pregame speeches are just easier than others.
The Mustangs grabbed control of the game by scoring a pair of goals in the first 10 minutes and added a second-half goal from Macley Baim to defeat the Sea Kings 3-1.
With the win, Mira Costa (16-4-2, 6-1) moved into a first-place tie with Palos Verdes (15-2-3, 6-1) with three league games remaining.
“We came out timid and we let them play too comfortably and they’re too good,” PV coach Derek Larkins said. “They don’t get enough credit for how good a team they are. They’re certainly deserving of getting the win today.”
The Mustangs’ Kyle Chen opened the scoring in the fifth minute with an assist from Anthony Lopez. Five minutes later, Jack Crawford made it 2-0.
There were moments early when the Mustangs could have put the game away, but PV goalkeeper Brad Brothers came up with three big saves to keep the game at 2-0.
“What I did tell my team was had we gone up 3-0, it’s game over,” Mira Costa assistant coach Al Brown said. “That changes the complete demeanor of the game. I told them that against tough teams like this, if we can put away that third goal, we get to sub in the rest of our players and we get to rest more.”
Brothers’ saves were crucial because late in the first half, AJ Meade-Tatum scored off of a header to cut Mira Costa’s lead to 2-1 heading into halftime.
“We all thought we would get that second goal, but then they got the third and iced it,” Larkins said.
Baim’s goal in the 74th minute put the game away for the Mustangs, and was a just reward for all of his hard work up and down the flanks.
“He was part of our team last year and he was trying to find his place,” Brown said. “He’s a smaller kid and it’s tough for him sometimes, but I tell him it doesn’t matter how big or small you are, if you get around somebody, it’s your game.
“The first 20 minutes of the second half, we expected it (PV adjustments). We didn’t want to get any cards, but if we’re pushing 100 percent through each play, we can beat any team, three or four nothing.”
PV concludes the regular season with a game at Redondo (Friday), at home against Leuzinger (Feb. 3) and at Peninsula (Feb. 5).
Mira Costa hosts Leuzinger (Friday), visits Centennial (Feb. 3) and will conclude the regular season at home against Redondo (Feb. 5).