They say a good defense is the best offense. It also doesn't hurt if that defense towers over the opposing team's offense.
With three six-footers dwarfing the Chandler strikers, No. 1 Chaparral reached the Division I boys soccer semifinals with a 1-0 win against Chandler on Saturday.
Chaparral will face No. 4 Hamilton in the semifinals on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Campo Verde High School.
"They're just solid athletes," Firebirds coach Jason Speirs asid of his defense. "They're physical and they're fast; as defenders that's what you want. You want guys that can play the simple ball, but then run down the fast forwards."
The Firebirds' (14-1) only goal came in the 24th minute following a free kick from 20 yards out. The kick was fielded and shot by Chaparral's Will Ellis, deflected by goalkeeper Luis Mendoza to a waiting Thomas Cairns who put the ball in the back of the net.
"Getting that early goal can be good and bad, but for us it seems to be good, because something we work on is getting that energy in the beginning of the game, and just bringing it to the other team for the next 80 minutes," Speirs said. "Then if we get that early goal, we have the type of team that we can control the rest of the game."
The midfield and defense - which largely consists of 6-foot-tall triplets Matt, Mark and Thomas Matiski - then contained the Wolves offense in the second half for the win. Chandler's first shot on goal in the second half came in 62nd minute off a free kick 40 yards out.
"It's difficult, especially when (the defense) is sticking it to you," Chandler coach Sasha Hunter said. "We just needed to be a little more physical about it. Our forwards took a few hits in the beginning and it threw them off."
The Firebirds, on the other hand, came out firing in the second half, blasting four shots that zipped just wide and over the crossbar within the first ten minutes.
The Wolves' best chance came after it saw some new life after Chandler's A.J. Hernandez earned a red card. Following a throw-in by Andrew Layton in the 78th minute Taylor Rumsey drove down the field and crossed the ball back to Layton who kicked a line drive. Chaparral's keeper, Kyle Jackson, was there to make the save.
"I believe we have one of the fastest, hardest-hitting, strongest defenses in the state, if not the best," said Chaparral's Douglass Jamison. "It helps our midfield, because they don't necessarily have to run back every single play. Because we're confident that our defense is going to hold it down, and we can sometimes be a little lazy, save some energy for the later in the game. That makes us a strong second-half team."