Palisades High Boys Soccer Squad Kicks into High Gear to Reach Finals at South East Winter Classic
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
For most of last week’s South East Winter Classic, the Palisades High boys soccer team was like a runaway express train, rolling through opponents with demoralizing ease. The Dolphins racked up 17 goals on their way to the finals, where they finally ran out of steam and were derailed 5-0 by Sotomayor. Still, it was a promising result that showed Palisades may indeed have the firepower to recapture the City Section title.
While head coach Dave Suarez was undergoing back surgery, his team was taking on Animo Bunche in its first pool play game and co-captain Shayan Safa got the Dolphins on the scoreboard first midway through the first half, then added a goal on a left-footed strike midway through the second half. Animo Bunche pulled to within one goal 30 seconds later, but Safa’s well-timed through ball to the foot of Josh Barad beat an offsides trap and Barad’s shot was true. He tapped a loose ball just inside the post one minute later for an insurance goal to cap the Dolphins’ 4-1 win.
“They were giving us plenty of space to work on the wings,” Safa said. “It’s good to get a win because we haven’t played since before the break and we had two league games canceled by fires. I feel very good about our team. I like being a captain and it’s nice knowing the guys look up to me for guidance. Communication is the most important thing.”
Barad, who plays for Santa Monica United’s silver eilte club team, believes effort is the key.
“We’re playing hard from the first whistle to the last. Obviously you have to be aggressive when you’re losing but we want to be consistent whether we’re ahead or behind and not concede any easy goals. Shayan gave me a great pass and I took advantage of it.”
After a 4-2 victory over South Gate on Thursday night Palisades advanced to the quarterfinals of the upper division and topped Culver City 4-1 Friday night on two goals each by Barad and Jackson Page.
Saturday morning’s semifinal matchup against host Huntington Park turned out to be a back-and-forth affair. Barad scored to tie it 1-1, then Page bent a direct free kick around the wall and into the left corner from 20 yards out to pull Palisades even just before halftime. He gave the Dolphins the lead on another direct free kick—this time from 25 yards away—early in the second half, Barad scored off a feed from Safa 15 minutes later and Safa tallied the last goal off an assist from Barad on a two-on-one break.
Suarez, who piloted Palisades to its first-ever City title two years ago, said his surgery went well and he hopes to be back on the sideline in a few weeks.
“I won’t be golfing for awhile, but I want to get back to the team as soon as possible. I’ll probably miss the first half of league before I can be real hands-on. Until then, I’m stuck as the video analyst.”
Palisades rebounded from its shutout loss in the South East tournament final by blanking Westchester 4-0 in its Western League opener in pouring rain Monday.
Safa scored twice and Barad and Page each added one goal for the Dolphins (6-1-0), who resumed league play versus LACES on Wednesday and host University (varsity kickoff at 7:30 p.m.) Friday at Stadium by the Sea.