It was a frantic final minutes in Thursday’s San Marcos-Dos Pueblos boys soccer game as both teams raced back and forth trying to break a scoreless tie.
The stellar play of Royals’ goalkeeper Sam Friedman and Chargers’ netminder Jorge Dominguez-Soto kept the ball out of the net, leaving the Goleta Valley rivals frustrated and stuck in the same position in the Channel League standings.
With the one point gained from the draw, Dos Pueblos stays in third place with 13 points (4-3-1) while San Marcos remains in fourth at 1-3-4 for seven points.
“Nobody ties like we do,” San Marcos coach Paul McLean cracked after a long post-game meeting with his squad. “We’re a force when it comes to tying.”
San Marcos was on the defensive most of the game, but the Royals had a great chance to take the lead on a counterattack in the 64th minute. Juan Escobar received a terrific diagonal ball from the left side and broke in on goal. But DP’s Dominguez-Soto came out and pounced on the ball before Escobar could dribble around him and shoot into an open net.
“He had to keep his wits about him, great job on that,” said DP coach Matt York of the huge save by Dominguez-Soto. “He’s a senior and he’s been doing this stuff a long time. And, he slipped on top of that and then had the presence of mind to keep his eyes up and his head up — and maybe had a little up from the soccer gods looking down on us — and the ball went toward him.
“You know you make your own plays in this game and he was in good position. He jumped on the ball and swallowed it.”
It was a frustrating moment for the Royals, who want to finish strong to have a shot at an at-large berth for the CIF playoffs.
“Both teams had some good chances to score goals and didn’t, which is disappointing I’m sure for them too,” McLean said. “We probably had the most clear-cut opportunity and weren’t able to put it away, which is frustrating.
“We’re in a situation where we need the points more than they do.”
Dos Pueblos came back after the big save and put heavy pressure on the San Marcos defense and Friedman.
Aldo Becerril took on three players in the box before the ball was deflected to Leo Rubio who shot over the cross bar. Moments later, Kaiser Kurexi’s flick header off a free kick was saved by Friedman.
Dominguez-Soto came up with another big save on a hard shot by the Royals’ Sergio Diaz.
The back-and-forth action continued until the final whistle, which surprisingly was blown as the Royals were setting up for a corner kick.
Coming off a 17-goal eruption on Tuesday against Cabrillo, Dos Pueblos came out firing in the first half on Thursday. But the play of Friedman and some off-target shooting kept the ball out of the net.
Friedman made a spectacular save on a shot by Bubba Gutierrez, tipping the ball over the cross bar with his left hand in the 15th minute. In the 27th minute, he blocked CJ Rodriguez’s free kick with two hands off the bar.
“Their goalie made some great plays and was always there, and he was always confident in the air,” said York. “He didn’t let any kind of ball go through his hands, and we were hoping he’d let one of those slip and we’d poke it in. But credit to him, he did a great job.”
McLean was pleased to see his defense came through after a lackluster performance in a loss against Lompoc on Tuesday.
“We just had way more desire,” he said. “We spent a lot of time talking about what desire looks like on the soccer field. Rafa Reyes made a huge, huge difference. He brought a lot of energy and passion, won 50-50 balls, made some ferocious tackles and set the tone for us.”
McLean sees Dos Pueblos doing well in the playoffs.
“DP is an excellent team, and we know that. Their midfield moves the ball really, really well, so they’re a lot to handle. I think they’re going to do really well in post Channel League.”
Despite San Marcos’ struggles this season, York expected the Royals to make things hard for his team.
“Paul’s always going to get his guys to play hard,” he said. “I think they’ve lost a few guys recently with a broken foot here and a concussion there. It doesn’t matter what the score is and what the standings are, these guys come out ready to play and they gave us a battle.
“All these boys love each other and they love competing against each other,” York added. “We wanted to win and we wanted to get the result, obviously. We thought we had some good chances in front of the goal. It just didn’t fall for us tonight”
— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.