Soccer is a game of passion — and, depending on one’s outlook, lucky or unlucky bounces.
Both the Chula Vista Spartans and visiting Southwest Raiders exhibited the former during Tuesday’s high profile match for the South Bay League lead. The Spartans, however, got the bounces in a 3-1 victory that left both teams tied atop the league standings with 7-1 records.
“If we finish our last four games, we can hang a banner,” CVHS coach Ruben Oliveira told his elated troops after the match.
While Southwest’s players weren’t as enthusiastic following the match, they have the same opportunity as the Spartans — win their final four matches and they, too, can call themselves league champions.
The Raiders (10-4-1) entered Tuesday’s encounter with a one-game lead in the league standings based on their 3-0 home turf win over the Spartans on Jan. 3. Oliveira said his team brought intensity to the pitch in the rematch that proved to be the difference.
“We played them the first time after it came out that we were ranked in the state and I think our guys were overconfident,” the CVHS coach said. “We came out flat.”
Tuesday’s second-round league match-up was scoreless at halftime with each goalkeeper — CV’s Uriel Frias and Southwest’s Rene Venegas — making a point-blank save to keep the game even.
The game turned 10 minutes into the second half when the Spartans were awarded a penalty kick. Julio Arreola drove the spot kick past Venegas for a 1-0 lead. The Raiders were charged with an own-goal five minutes later when a pass by CV’s Fernando Isai-Aguila’s was instead deflected by a Southwest player into his own net.
The Spartans (16-2-2) were back celebrating just a minute later when they won control of the ensuing re-start at midfield and broke down the right-attacking wing. Arreola received credit for this second goal of the game.
Southwest made it 3-1 on Brandon Mejia’s tally with about 20 minutes left in the game.
“We still have a lot of faith in ourselves,” Raiders coach Giovanni Medina said. “They played with more desire in this game than we did. They got a penalty and an own goal — that happens in soccer. This will help motivate our guys for the CIF playoffs.”
Both Chula Vista (Division I) and Southwest (Division III) are expected to go deep in the upcoming San Diego Section playoffs.
“Beyond league, we should be pretty strong,” Oliveira said. “Carlsbad should be No. 1, and right now, I’d have to put us at No. 2. We’d have a bye in the first round. If we get a couple guys back, that should help us out.”
“This loss has both good and bad things,” Medina said frankly. “We’ll learn from it and move forward. We’d like to finish with a league co-championship … and little by little go after CIF.”
Southwest bounced back with a 4-0 victory against visiting Mar Vista on Thursday. Carlos Ramirez led the Raiders with two goals and also assisted on another goal. Luis Andres Nunez and Gabe Alamillo also scored goals for Southwest, which put the game away with three second-half tallies. Brandon Mejia and Rafael Espinoza were each credited with assists in the victory. Raiders goalkeepers Rene Venegas and Marcos Beltran shared credit for the shutout victory.
Southwest next plays at Castle Park on Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 3 p.m. Mar Vista fell to 0-8 in league play, 1-15-1 overall.
Chula Vista defeated visiting San Ysidro, 1-0, on Thursday to keep pace with the Raiders, both with 8-1 league records.