For the past two weeks, the Los Amigos High boys’ soccer team has done everything it could to take control of its own destiny.
After suffering a home loss to Loara on Jan. 9, the Lobos understood that the road to a league title would not be easy.
They have not lost since, and they exacted their revenge against the Saxons on Friday afternoon.
Junior striker Francisco Lopez had a hat trick, and the visiting Lobos fended off a late rally to defeat Loara 3-2 in a Garden Grove League match.
Los Amigos (13-2-1, 7-1 in league) entered the day in a three-way tie for first place with Loara (10-5-2, 6-2) and Santiago (16-3-2, 6-1).
Lopez scored three goals over a six-minute span early in the first half. The Lobos spent a lot of time on the ball to begin the game, and they had success playing the ball ahead out of the back.
In the eighth minute, junior sweeper Brandon Alfaro cleared the ball ahead. The long ball did not simply flip the field. It challenged the back line of Loara, and Lopez got in behind the defense to score the opening goal.
Lopez’s speed proved advantageous on the thick grass of the Loara soccer field. Balls could be played behind the defense, but they would settle enough for speedy players to run them down.
Another deep pass worked for the Lobos in the 11th minute, when center defensive midfielder Julio Vega was able to connect with Lopez to send him on a breakaway.
Los Amigos repeatedly threatened to score in a variety of ways. The through ball was another weapon, which was utilized especially well by senior striker Gustavo Oleta. He sent center attacking midfielder Alfonso Montano in alone on Loara goalkeeper Eduardo Rivera in the 10th minute, but Rivera made the save.
In the 14th minute, Oleta tapped the ball behind the defense again. Lopez tucked the ball inside the right post for his 23rd goal of the season.
“I saw what they were doing,” Lopez said. “They were doing an offside trap, and I read it. I knew from the start that they were a slow defense, and they wanted to play offside trap so that they could throw me off my game. I read that, and I came through.”
The Lobos were frustrated on the offensive end the rest of the way. They continued to generate quality scoring chances, but Rivera stopped the only two shots that Los Amigos put on target in the second half.
Loara got back into the game, thanks to penalty-kick goals by Devon Brown (53rd minute) and Johnny Rodriguez (68th minute).
The Saxons continued to apply the pressure, but the Lobos held on for the victory.
“I’m glad we don’t play these guys anymore,” Lobos coach Chris Sandro said of the Saxons. “We’ve had two really interesting games against them. They’re a good team.
“For some reason, they were two very close games, and we’re happy to get out of here with a win.”
Right back Allen Ocampo spoke about the need to play perfect defense in the final minutes of regulation and stoppage time with the officials showing a willingness to make calls in the box.
“You can’t make mistakes in the back,” Ocampo said. “If you make one mistake, obviously, the ref is going to [make the call]. Every little thing that we did was right because of our [goalkeeper Daniel Roman]. Everyone was communicating in the back.”
Roman, a senior, made five saves for Los Amigos, which has outscored opponents 31-4 during its current five-game winning streak.
“Most of the balls were coming over the top,” Ocampo said of the Saxons’ late surge. “Once we started talking, all of us got into shape. Once we talk, nobody is going to get past us, for sure. I can tell you that right now.”