The game featured two of the final four teams from last year's CCCAA State Championship final four, as the Cerritos College men's soccer team hosted Taft College on Tuesday afternoon. It also pitted two of the nation's top-ranked teams, with the Cougars coming in ranked #5 in the country by the United Soccer Coaches and the Falcons at #12. The game was a tight defensive battle for the first 87 minutes until Cerritos (4-1-1) broke through for the game's lone goal and a 1-0 decision over Taft (5-1-1).
"I would consider this to be a statement game for us today," said head coach Benny Artiaga. "We played without two key players (Christian Perez and Erick Gallinar), but the team showed that they can play with anybody." The duo had started each of the previous five games and combined for four assists and 36 shots.
Playing with post-season intensity, neither team had many scoring chances due to the aggressive nature of defensive play by both squads. Both sides were met with resistance once penetrating the other team's side of the field until the 87th minute when a seemingly harmless play resulted in the game's lone tally.
Freshman Eugene Martinez (Delille Academy, Belize) corralled a loose ball and sent a feeding pass to freshman Bryan Ortega (Cesar Chavez HS). Defended by two players, he was able to get the ball to freshman Carlos Perez (Mayfair HS) on the right side of the field deep in Taft territory. One move around Josue Cartagena cleared a sightline for Perez to get off a strong shot that rolled into the far corner of the net past Cougars goalkeeper Brandon Garcia.
Sophomore goalkeeper Jordan Aldama (North Torrance HS) posted his third straight 1-0 shutout win and made four saves in the match. He dove to his right to turn away Hugo Magana in the 38th minute of the game, with the others being fairly non-threatening shots. Aldama was aided in the shutout by a solid defensive line, with Martinez joined by sophomores Luis Lira (La Puente HS), Esteban Camacho (Mayfair HS), along with freshmen Ernesto Cueva (Bassett HS) and Jorge Cardona (Connections Academy HS).
"We were so disciplined and we withstood their aerial game very well," added Artiaga. We will obviously see them again, and for us, our confidence grows as we move forward."
The Falcons will now travel to Allan Hancock College on Friday for a 5:00 p.m. non-conference match. It will serve as their final non-conference match before the start of South Coast Conference play the following week.
Photos by Daryl Peterson
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