Boys soccer: Independence revving up for another run

January 29, 2019 by Jose Garcia, AZPreps365

With state semifinal appearances in the past three years, Independence High is used to playing in big games.

But what the Glendale school really wants to participate in is the big one. It’ll get another shot at that elusive 5A Conference state title spot as the 2018-19 regular season winds down.

Independence likely improved its playoff seeding and took over sole possession of first place in the Desert West Region after a solid performance against Verrado Tuesday. The 4-1 home win over current No. 6 Verrado should help No. 10 Independence improve its playoff seeding.

The top-8 ranked teams earn automatic state tournament berths at the end of the regular season. Independence is loaded with experience and difficult to defend.

Four different players scored Tuesday, and its goalkeeper, Jason Rodriguez, was a wall in the first half. Other than giving up a late penalty kick, Rodriguez showed off his reflexes and quickness coming off his line to halt some of Verrado’s runs.

“These guys are hungry,” said Sergio Gomez, who’s in his 22nd season as Independence’s coach. “It’s about time that they get to that next level. But know that people are coming for us. When we play with our skill and speed, and are able to do it collectively as a team, that’s what helps.”

Independence scored two goals in each half.

The first 40 minutes were closely contested, but one of the players who stood out in the first 20 minutes, forward Alexis Mendoza, blasted in the first goal in the 21st minute.

Verrado (9-3-1 overall, 2-1 region) had some success moving the ball out wide, where its best three first half chances where created. But Rodriguez made three excellent saves, including during two point-blank attempts.

“It was just reaction saves,” Rodriguez said. “I just opened up so I wouldn’t give them much space.”

Junior midfielder Ivan Corral dribbled up the middle before going to his left for Independence’s second goal in the 36th minute.

Enrique Arellano and sophomore Andy Mata recorded the two second half goals for Independence (14-3, 3-0).

"This year we hope to win the state championship,” Arellano said.