From the outset of the Garden Grove League schedule, the Los Amigos High boys’ soccer team has had to play from behind.
The Lobos dropped their league opener at home to rival Santiago. Building off that performance, the Cavaliers carried a seven-match winning streak into Friday’s rematch.
Los Amigos got back into the race by defeating first-place Santiago 1-0 on the road to kick off the second half of league play.
Junior striker Adrian Villicana scored in the 61st minute, breaking the scoreless tie and filling the Los Amigos sideline with excitement.
Jesus Olague worked the ball through the midfield ahead to Edgar Cachu, who was able to win a tackle in the box and send the ball in front of the goal mouth for Villicana.
Villicana’s shot bounced in front of Cavaliers goalkeeper Dominick Garcia, and he was unable to handle the hop off the natural grass field.
“I didn’t expect that to go in at all,” Villicana said. “I got surprised. When I shot the ball, I expected the keeper to actually block it, but luckily, I got help.”
Los Amigos (7-2-4, 4-1-1; 13 points), which shares second place with Loara (4-1-1; 13 points) in the league, had to look deeper down the depth chart for offense when leading scorer Francisco Lopez went down to a left ankle injury late in the first half.
Lopez, who has 14 goals this season, did not return to the contest, but he said after the match that he is hopeful to make a return to action next week.
“When [Lopez] goes down, we’ve got to get creative with our offense, and it turned out that it worked out,” Lobos coach Chris Sandro said. “Someone stepped up. Adrian stepped up.
“We got a little luck from a bump over there, and it caught a funny bounce on that shot, but hey, it’s soccer.”
Villicana could have become the victim, too. In the 75th minute, he received his second yellow card of the contest when he interfered with a free kick to be taken by Santiago’s Jesus Reyes.
The infraction sent Villicana off the pitch, leaving the Lobos with one less defender to protect a one-goal lead in the closing minutes. Villicana will also miss his team’s next match at La Quinta on Wednesday.
“We’ve been the victim of our own emotion,” Sandro said. “I want them to play hard, but they need to know when to turn it off and turn their brain on.”
The back line of Allen Ocampo, Omar Martinez, Brandon Alfaro and Pedro Leyva held up for the Lobos. Brandon Santos, who made four saves in the contest, also came off his line to end a number of opportunities for the Cavaliers.
Yair Garcia and Daniel Rebollo each had two shots on goal for Santiago (13-3-1, 5-1; 15 points), ranked No. 6 in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 poll. Emmanuel Calderon made three saves in the first half.
Olague, a 5-foot-1 midfielder, has seen his role fluctuate between a starter and a reserve. He was among those that stepped up on the ball in the absence of Lopez.
“We kind of rolled with a different lineup for this game, and he had a different role, and he did step up,” Sandro said of Olague. “He always amazes me how he can keep the ball at his feet.
“He’s sneaky. People don’t expect him to be able to dribble around them, and he does every time.”
Olague was proud to even the season series with the Cavaliers in what was a physical affair. The match even saw a skirmish break out along the sideline late in the first half.
“It feels really good,” Olague said. “We just played our hardest. We had it all planned out already that we were going to play our hardest, and we just had to win because if we want to have a chance for league, we had to win this game. We had no choice.”
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