Cason Goodman, Sergio Diaz
Sergio Diaz of San Marcos chases Santa Barbara forward Cason Goodman during Thursday’s first-place soccer showdown. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

A guy who’s made a name for himself as an all-league middle attacker on the volleyball court, showed that he’s an impact player on the soccer field as well for San Marcos.

Cade McLean delivered the game-winning goal in a 2-1 decision over Santa Barbara High that put the Royals in the driver’s seat for the Channel League championship.

The result moves San Marcos clear at the top of the standings at 7-0-1 with two matches remaining. Santa Barbara falls to second place at 6-1-1.

McLean scored the go-ahead goal in the 59th minute off a short corner-kick play. Leonel Olivo rolled the ball to Miguel Mondragon on the left wing and he whipped the ball into the center of the penalty area. It found the 6-foot-3 McLean in a crowd of players and he headed the ball past Santa Barbara goalkeeper Erick Vasquez.

“We work on on that. That’s one we do in practice every time,” said McLean, who got some redemption after the Royals lost to Santa Barbara in volleyball on Wednesday night. “Miguel’s got a great left foot to whip it in and I was there, right place, right time, got the job done.”

The corner kick was set up after Isaac Diaz’s shot on goal was deflected over the end line.

For McLean, it was a fantastic feeling to score after being away from soccer due to a bad injury suffered during his freshman year. 

“Oh, it feels amazing after coming back after two years of not playing and getting on the field and working with these boys. You couldn’t ask for a better team,” he said.

McLean’s father, Paul, is the soccer team’s head coach.

“That was pretty special, for sure,” said Paul of watching his son score the huge goal. “He didn’t even tell me he was coming to try out this year, so it’s fun to have him be a part of the team.”

On the short corner, “We’re always trying to add some new stuff and that certainly was one that we’ve practiced before. And it was fun to see it actually work,” said coach McLean.

“They caught us off guard,” Santa Barbara coach Ricardo Alcaraz said. “They had a good play and they executed well.”

McLean’s goal came seven minutes after Santa Barbara nearly took the lead on a brilliantly taken free kick by Seba Alvarez from 20 yards straight out. Alvarez’s blast cleared the wall, clanged the underside of the cross bar, bounced off the ground, hit the bar again and dropped into the arms of San Marcos goalie Sam Friedman.

In a video from a cellphone, it appeared the ball cleared the goal line. But it was such a bang-bang play that the assistant referee couldn’t make a call. 

“It’s unlucky,” said Alcaraz. “That’s part of the game. We’re gonna get calls and we’re not going to get calls sometimes. You can’t complain, you just got to move on.”

Alvarez gave Santa Barbara an early lead on a set piece.  From 40 yards out, Luis Jeronimo hit a free kick into the area and Alvarez made a great run and poked the ball home in the 13th minute. 

The Dons’ defense was doing a good job of marking the UCSB-bound  Vom Steeg twins, Caden and Jared. But they couldn’t stop Jared Vom Steeg after he stole the ball in the 29th minute. He drove toward goal and ripped a shot past Vasquez to knot the score at 1-1.

San Marcos almost went ahead just before halftime on a free kick from 30 yards. Jared Vom Steeg blasted the ball on goal and Vasquez stopped it. But he couldn’t hold on and the ball started trickling toward the goal. Fortunately for Santa Barbara, Barrett Goodman cleared it off the line.

San Marcos’ defense turned in a solid performance. Sergio Diaz and Justin Hess made it a tough night for forward Cason Goodman, the Dons’ leading goal scorer with 12 goals.

“They did a great job, I totally agree,” said coach McLean. (Goodman and Alvarez) are a force up front. They are fantastic players and a handful. There was a little bit of last-ditch defending sometimes.”

Santa Barbara created some quality chances at a tying goal in the last 15 minutes.

Jackson Wolf hit a ball that Alvarez just missed  getting his foot on at the far post. Moments later, Cason Goodman broke in on goal but lifted his shot over the bar.

Luke Goodman headed a shot on goal that was saved by Friedman in the 78th minute and Miguel Alvarado hit a free kick that bounced through a crowd of players and out of bounds. Just before the final whistle, Cason Goodman tried to combine with his twin, Luke Goodman, in the box but the pass was a tad too long.

“I was proud of my guys and how they fought back,” said Alcaraz. “We felt we got the tie there, but it didn’t happen. We got a lot of opportunities. The luck just wasn’t on our side tonight.”

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.