By Lucas Almeida
Walnut, Calif. — Players prepared and practiced hard all season long with one main goal in mind—to come to this stage of the competition and bring the trophy home but no matter what happens, the City College men’s soccer team knows they are making history.
After a very balanced game in regular time and with one man down throughout the second-half, City College kept the pressure on Golden West College and beat them 1-0 on Nov. 30 in overtime.
For the first time in City College’s men’s soccer history, the team will go on to the State Championship final game on Sunday.
“This is a great experience, this was our second chance to go to a final-four and this is our first time going to the final,” sophomore midfielder Ricardo Guerra said after the game as he was hugged by his teammates as they celebrated with him during the interview. “(Now) We’re just going to play hard like we have been doing it and we hope to win, we hope for the best.”
Kickoff started with the No.1 seed in the south division, Golden West College, pressuring the No. 2 seed in the north division, City College of San Francisco.
Sophomore goalkeeper Martin De La Torre and his defensive back line, with defenders Kian Ahmadi and Andre Alvarez, were solid and compact enough to challenge hard plays. De La Torre was focused making important saves throughout the first-half.
The Rams’ attacking line were flat and there were no solid opportunities to find the net in the first half.
Starting forwards Alejandro Martinez Garcia and Julian Del Toro were pressured by the Rustlers’ defenders and were not able to capitalize on the opportunities they had.
When the referee whistled the end of the first-half it was clear that the Rams needed the 15- minute break to rest and adjust their offensive line.
The Rams came into the second-half with a whole new attitude, playing better offense with sophomore forward Juan Miguel Perez.
With the game still tied, Golden West College fans sitting in the stands provoked City College with chants of “Ole, Ole, Ole” as they passed the ball down the field.
Six minutes in, the Rustlers had one of the best chances to open the score but the “Goal” shout the fans were waiting for never came. Instead “Ohhh” shouts were heard from the stands as the ball hit the left post when Golden West College midfielder Cesar Cruz-Martinez shot a free-kick near the 18-yard box.
The Rams kept pressuring and gradually were able to pick up the momentum by being more aggressive and finding the right spots to counter-attack with sophomore midfielder Alfredo Castaneda’s accurate passing.
What many couldn’t expect was that the Rams’ hero would be a player who started on the bench and went into the game and fired up his entire team .
Rams freshman forward Arnol Arceta, who throughout the season has been a key player, with seven goals and six assists, scared the Rustlers supporters in the 65th minute by striking a firm shot into the center of the goal, but Golden West’ goalie was in the right place to make an easy save.
All the Rams needed was to put the ball into the back of the net.
In the 70th minute Castaneda had a clear chance inside the box, but his shot went over the post missing by inches, keeping the game tied at zero, and frustrating his teammates and coaching staff on the sidelines.
Six minutes later Ahmadi was sent off after an unnecessary sliding tackle in the midfield.
The referee didn’t think twice about pulling the red card and making the game even more dramatic as the clock ticked down.
When the Rams had ball possession and with one man down, head coach Adam Lucarelli’s strategy was to hold off the Rustler’s pressure and use fast counter-attacks with Del Toro and Arceta.
The Rams withstood the Rustlers’ pressure until the referee whistled the end of the second-half and the game was sent into overtime.
With both teams exhausted after 90 minutes of action, set pieces and counter-attacks plays were the best ways to try to put the ball in the back of the net.
The Rustlers took 27 total shots on the afternoon and Rams goalie De La Torre grabbed 12 of those for saves.
In the 99th minute, Rustlers midfielder Jaime Rios took a free-kick shooting at the bottom left corner making De La Torre dive for one his 12 saves of the afternoon.
The Rams counter-attack finally found the net when midfielder Ahmed Zaky sent an accurate pass to Arceta, who was fast enough to outrun the defenders and score the Rams’ winning goal, silencing the Rustlers supporters.
In the end, all the Rams’ players and coaching staff could do was celebrate their victory.
Rams head coach Lucarelli said it was a team effort where all players, starters and reserves were important, and now looks forward to Sunday’s historic game.
City College will face the three-time state champions, Mount San Antonio College, and will try to avenge last year’s loss in the final-four.
“We feel very happy, very fortunate, especially that we played with one man down, it’s never easy,” Lucarelli said.
Lucarelli is aware of the challenges ahead for the Rams.
“It probably couldn’t be in tougher conditions, they’re playing at the home field, Lucarelli said. “They (Mount SAC) are the national champions, but I think our guys are real focused. We will have 11, they will have 11, and we’ll see what happens.”
Rams hero Arceta didn’t have a chance to play in last year’s loss against Mount San Antonio, but he is motivated to make an impact in Sunday’s game.
“I didn’t play last year, but since this is my first year I’m excited to win and bring the trophy home,” Arceta said.
The Rams will play against Mt. San Antonio at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 2.
Follow Lucas on Twitter: @lpa_sfreporter (1061)