The Metro-Pacific League appears to be living up to its preseason billing as one of the most competitive four-team leagues for boys soccer in the San Diego Section. The league season is short — six games played in three weeks at the tail end of regular season play.
Teams began second-round play on Thursday, with the Hilltop Lancers (2-1-0 in league) holding a narrow one-point edge in the standings over the Chula Vista Spartans (1-0-2 in league) and both the Castle Park Trojans and Sweetwater Red Devils bringing up the rear with 0-1-2 league records.
By the time the day was over, Chula Vista (2-0-2) held sole possession of first place in the standings, followed by Hilltop (2-2-0), Castle Park (1-1-2) and Sweetwater (0-2-2).
With each victory worth three points in the standings — a tie is worth one point — significant movement can still occur in the final two games of second-round play.
Hilltop had a chance to secure its hold on first place with a win Thursday at Castle Park. After Victor Lopez slotted in a crossing pass in the fourth minute of play, it appeared the Lancers were on their way to a 3-1-0 opening round showing.
But the game proved to be “hard-fought” in the words of CP coach Jose Cobian Jr. and the injury-riddled Trojans sucked it up to punch in two second-half goals to walk off the field with an inspirational 2-1 win.
“All left everything on the field,” the Trojan coach noted.
Castle Park was missing its star player Felipe Liborio Jr., who had racked up 22 goals in 18 previous games.
But the Trojans managed to put enough offense together to escape with a key victory against the west side rival Lancers, who had pummeled Castle Park by a 6-2 score in a game played Feb. 7 at Hilltop.
Senior Eduard Lopez and freshman Arthur Zertuche came through with clutch goals for the Trojans, with Zertuche notching the game-winning goal to give his team renewed life in its pursuit of the iangural Metro-Pacific League banner.
The Spartans host the Trojans in a key match-up Wednesday. Kick-off is 3:30 p.m.
Chula Vista remained undefeated in league play after scoring a 1-0 win at Sweetwater on Thursday. Previously, the Spartans edged host Hilltop, 1-0, on a goal in the final three minutes of play on Tuesday.
Chula Vista, which entered the week ranked 10th among section teams, improved to 11-5-3 overall.
Castle Park, which previously enjoyed a spotlight in the section’s top 10 rankings, improved to 12-4-3.
Hilltop is 9-11-1 while Sweetwater is 9-7-3.
All four teams expect to qualify for the upcoming divisional playoffs. Both Chula Vista and Hilltop are guaranteed playoffs spots in the section’s new Open Division.
Otay Ranch maintained its lead in the Metro-Mesa League with a key 3-0 win at Eastlake on Thursday. Sophomore Eduardo Dallet scored twice and senior Eddy Lopez scored one goal to keep the Mustangs (9-4-3 overall) undefeated at 5-0-1 in league play. The Titans (4-2-1 in league play, 13-5-3 overall) look to be in solid shape to secure a playoff berth, however.
No. 8-ranked Southwest topped visiting Montgomery, 4-0, on Thursday to remain undefeated in Metro-South Bay League play — tied with the surprising San Ysidro Cougars, with both teams possessing 3-0-1 league records.
Bernardo Leyva led the Raiders (13-2-4) with two goals and one assist in the match while Rafael Espinoza and Jose Mendoza also scored goals.
San Ysidro, which hosts Southwest on Wednesday, edged host Mar Vista, 3-2, on Thursday to remain unbeaten in league play.
Metro Conference standings
Otay Ranch Mustangs 5-0-1, 16 points (9-4-3 overall)
Eastlake Titans 4-2-1, 13 points (13-5-3 overall)
Olympian Eagles 4-2-1, 13 points (8-6-5 overall)
Mater Dei Catholic Crusaders 0-4-1, 1 point (5-9-2 overall)
Bonita Vista Barons 0-5-0, 0 points (5-10-4 overall)
Chula Vista Spartans 2-0-2, 8 points (11-5-3 overall)
Hilltop Lancers 2-2-0, 6 points (9-11-1 overall)
Castle Park Trojans 1-1-2, 5 points (12-4-3 overall)
Sweetwater Red Devils 0-2-2, 2 points (9-7-3 overall)
Metro-South Bay League
Southwest Raiders 3-0-1, 10 points (13-2-4 overall)
San Ysidro Cougars 3-0-1, 10 points (6-8-3 overall)
Montgomery Aztecs 1-3-0, 3 points (2-11-5 overall)
Mar Vista Mariners 0-4-0, 0 points (2-16-2 overall)