In front of a cautiously optimistic crowd on a brisk and blustery evening, San Diego’s two Premier Development League teams met in a season opening skirmish at Southern California Surf’s home base at the Army Navy Academy in Carlsbad. San Diego Zest FC walked away with all three points, courtesy of a 1-0 win in a game that was tight, cagey and hard-fought.
The match was the first meeting between the two clubs, and the first outing in PDL play for SoCal Surf. While the result went against Surf, the performance over the course of the 90 minutes indicates that both teams will be competitive at this level.
Zest’s goal came courtesy of an early strike in the fourth minute of play when Patrick McGrath emerged from a top-of-the-box scrum unmarked and applied a headed finish to a sumptuous delivery served in by Shinya Omata swung in from the right hand channel from a restart.
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McGrath led the line for Zest over the course of the night and was a constant menace with his tireless running. In the build up to the match, Zest head coach Cem Tont referenced the club’s 2016 inaugural campaign as one in which, “everything just fell into place.”
The same could be said for the 2017 opener for Zest. After scoring early, and competing well in the first half, Zest rode its luck during the second 45 minutes of play as Surf rallied and crashed wave after wave of attacks on the Zest’s rigid backline.
Official statistics show that Surf shaded the possession of the ball 53% to Zest’s 47% and logged 42 separate sequences of 3+ strings of passes compared to Zest’s 29. The final shot-count totaled 16 attempts for Surf and 8 for Zest.
All throughout the second half, Zest’s resilience in midfield was tested by Surf’s blend of direct attacking play, and intricate passing patterns. Zest held firm and saw out the game, riding their luck at times. Surf’s best chance came late in the second half when left back Kyle Adams struck a sweet volley from a deep cross. The shot was blocked by Zest goalkeeper Rodrigo Sarmiento.
Surf Head Coach Cody Worden said after the match that Zest probably would “finish top four at worst in this league.”
SoCal Surf next takes the field against Orange County SC U-23 on Saturday May 13th at Norco College, while Zest’s next game is in U.S. Open Cup action against the LA Wolves of the UPSL on Wednesday May 10th.