By Lucas Almeida
Since the Aug. 31 start of their season, the City College men’s soccer team had not tasted defeat. In the most important game of the season, that taste was very bitter indeed.
Previously undefeated, the Rams were a solid team all season long but their invincibility ended Dec. 2 when they were shut out 2-0 by the three-time State Champion Mount San Antonio College Mounties.
The Rams, who made the California Community College Athletic Association State Championship finals for the first time, ended their historic season with a 19-1-4 record.
Though the loss in the State Championship final wasn’t something Rams head coach Adam Lucarelli planned, he was still very proud of his team’s overall season performance and effort in coming so far.
“I think (the game) was pretty even in the first half,” Lucarelli said after the tough loss. “Unfortunately, we let that penalty kick in in the beginning of the second half so that kind of changed the complexion of the game. We had to chase the ball around and it was easier for them to knock it around because they didn’t have to score a goal, so I think that was the deal breaker. But I’m proud of the guys. We worked really hard and I think all season they’ve been overachieving and I think going undefeated until this final game wasn’t a bad job, I’m proud of them.”
In a game of very distinct halves, the first half was very physical and marked by rough fouls. The referee had no choice but to pull yellow cards to control the game.
The Mounties defense was solid. The Rams offense was not able to capitalize on the few clear chances they had. Sophomore midfielder Alfredo Castaneda’s shot went wide after striking the ball too high and freshman forward Julian Del Toro’s shot was too weak to give any trouble to Mt. San Antonio College’s goalkeeper.
The Mounties had a late chance to score as the the end of the first half approached. Sophomore midfielder Jesus Gonzalez struck the ball powerfully, but Rams sophomore Martin De La Torre, the second-ranked goalkeeper in the state, dove to block the strong shot. The ball hit the goalpost, but Rams defenders were able to kick the ball out of the box. The game was leveled at 0-0 heading into the second half.
What the Rams’ players didn’t expect when the referee whistled the start of the second half was to suffer from a quick goal after a foul in the box. The referee didn’t think twice when pointing to the penalty kick spot.
Mountie freshman midfielder Armando Ochoa, who had been fouled in the box, took the shot. De La Torre dove to his left but Ochoa buried the kick in the back of the net on the right side of the goal.
The early goal changed the Rams entire game plan. The Rams had no choice but to pressure and fight for a goal to tie the game.
As the Rams players tried to pick up the momentum, the Mounties players tired their opponents by passed the ball around.
The game couldn’t get more dramatic for the Rams with the clock marking 75 minutes, after freshman midfielder Ahmed Zaky made an individual mistake which led to Mount Sac’s second goal.
Mounties sophomore midfielder Gonzalez stole the ball from Zaky to pull a counterattack and send a long pass from the right flank to freshman forward Anthony Mangold-Caudle. Mangold-Caudle took one touch before scoring the Mounties’ second goal. De La Torre had no chance to deflect or stop the shot.
After that moment, Rams head coach Lucarelli tried everything he could, including making substitutions and changing his team’s tactic formation from 4-4-2 to 3-4-3 with three forwards, but the nervousness and tension was visible in the Rams players’ faces as their plays were not executed well enough to endanger the Mounties’ defense.
“Soccer, that’s the way it is–it’s a game of moments,” Rams Assistant Coach Jesus Hernandez said. “Just that penalty kick was very unfortunate, but that’s how sports are. That’s why sometimes it’s so hard. You work so hard and our guys played great. We’ve got nothing to be ashamed about.”
All the home fans, coaching staff and players on the sideline had to do was wait until the referee blew the final whistle for the Mounties to celebrate and make history again.
The Mounties claimed their fourth consecutive California Community College Athletic Association Men’s Soccer state championship. According to the Athletic Association’s website, this is the first time in the 39 years of the men’s soccer state championship that a team has won four straight.
As the home team celebrated their fourth consecutive state title in one side of the pitch, Rams players were desolated by the tough loss.
“First half, (the game) was pretty challenging,” team captain sophomore midfielder Ricardo Guerra said, “but we were attacking and defending well. It was a pretty even game. In the second half, we started slow, the mistake killed us, the penalty kick, and we just didn’t play like we usually played during the season. We should feel proud of what we’ve accomplished, making all the way to the final. But you always want to end up strong winning and if you don’t win it, you’re not satisfied.”
Following the game, Mt. San Antonio College’s sophomore forward Norberto Ochoa was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
The Mounties beat the previous record of three consecutive state championships previously held by Santa Ana College (1998-2000). The win also puts the Mounties in a tie for third place with El Camino College (Torrance) with four state championships. Santa Ana holds the record with seven, followed by Foothill College (Los Altos Hills) with five.
See all the pictures on Facebook: http://on.fb.me/YSEjCX
Follow Lucas on Twitter: @lpa_sfreporter (428)