After 120 minutes of intense soccer that resulted in 11 yellow cards and no goals, the Cerritos College men's soccer team prevailed, 3-2 in sudden death penalty kicks against visiting Golden West College on Saturday afternoon. The win sends the #1-seeded Falcons (17-0-6) to the CCCAA State Final Four at American River College in Sacramento next weekend. The team will play on Friday at 10:00 a.m. against Taft College in one of the two semifinal games. Back on September 19, Cerritos defeated the Cougars, 1-0. The trip to the Final Four is the first for the Falcons since they won the state championship in 2014, which included a 1-0 win over Taft in a semifinal game.
At the conclusion of the five penalty kicks, the teams were tied at 2-2. Both teams converted their first attempts, and with the Falcons leading, 2-1 heading into the fourth kick, they had a chance to clinch the game. But freshman Andrew Perez (Gardena HS) saw his attempt blocked. Cerritos had another chance to clinch and the game, but freshman Carlos Payeras (Lennox Academy HS) saw his shot go wide and miss the net, which forced the game on to sudden death. The #4-seeded Rustlers (17-3-3) saw their second and third shots hit the goal post, while Golden West goalkeeper Adrian Flores posted a pair of saves.
The first sudden death attempt by Golden West's Christopher Leal hit the crossbar, giving the Falcons another chance to win the game. Up stepped Flores, who recorded his third save as he dove to his right side to deny sophomore Oscar Canela (Paramount HS). Falcon freshman goalkeeper Jordan Aldama (North Torrance HS) then came up with the biggest save of the season, turning away Alex Maldonado-Pinon on the seventh attempt of the penalty kicks. With their third chance to win the game, sophomore Jose Ponce (San Pedro HS) didn't miss, as he went top shelf to the jubilation of his teammates.
It was the second meeting of the season between the two teams, who played to a scoreless draw back on September 8, and was a rematch of a first round playoff game from last year, where the Rustlers ended the Falcons season with a 2-1 score. The win also snapped a two-match playoff skid against Golden West, who defeated Cerritos, 1-0 back in the 2011 season. The two teams had entered the day facing each other 15 times in the last 11 seasons, with the Falcons holding a slim, 8-5-2 advantage.
The intensity of the game cost Cerritos their leading scorer, as Luis Garcia (La Habra HS) received a pair of yellow cards in overtime and will be lost for the match against Taft next Friday. He took offense to the tight defense by the Rustlers, which included knocking him to the ground at every opportunity to prevent him from creating any type of scoring chances. His frustration level reached a point in the 101st minute and he lashed out at the official to receive his second yellow card in the span of 20 minutes, forcing Cerritos to play with only 10 players for the final 19 minutes of the match.
Both teams had just a couple of chances to score due to the tightly defended style of play. Cerritos saw freshman Christian Perez (Paramount HS) hit the post on a free kick in the 13th minute, while Ponce was turned away on a diving stop from 40 yards out late in the game. As for the Rustlers, they had a goal disallowed due to an offside call in the 68th minute, while Romaldo Escudero lined a shot off the post on a free kick in the 74th minute.
Said head coach Benny Artiaga, "it was a tough game like we figured it would be. They are a very direct team, and they play a lot of long ball. Our team showed a lot of resilience. I didn't really want to see the game go to penalty kicks, but sometimes that's soccer."
Photos by Daryl Peterson
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