Toluca almost walks, but sticks around to have its kicks
Two 40-minute regulation periods, a lengthy protest and penalty kicks were not sufficient to crown the second champion in the South Lake Tahoe United Soccer League.
Instead, Deportivo Toluca, the top seed entering the playoffs, needed a 1-0 win in the second, sudden-death penalty kick round to secure their championship Sunday night at South Tahoe Middle School.
Toluca defeated second-seeded Fusion – the only team to beat Toluca in the regular season – after regulation play ended in a 2-2 tie and the first set of penalty kicks failed to produce a winner. Toluca’s Fausto Santana hit high and right to score on his first penalty kick, while Nestor Llamas, the hero in Fusion’s semifinal round, missed wide right for Toluca to win the championship after dominating the regular season.
Toluca technical director Frank Martinez called his team’s extra-period win “justice.”
“I’m just pleased because we won,” Martinez said. “It’s all justice.
“They play like a family.”
Indeed, Toluca’s togetherness nearly cost the team. Toluca led 2-1 when a controversial hand-ball call in the box set up a nearly point-blank penalty kick in front of Toluca’s goal, and the club left the field in protest. With goalie Oscar Gomez out of the box with his team – which appeared ready to walk out of the game — Fusion’s Arnoldo Curiel knocked the penalty kick in. A lengthy, emotional protest followed, delaying the game.
“We were upset, and we said we didn’t want to play anymore,” Martinez said of the protest.
“Then, I thought, we’ve got a lot of people here … and we thought it wasn’t fair to them,” Martinez said.
Eventually, the game’s officials decided to give Fusion another kick, since Gomez was out of the goal. Curiel connected in the 26th minute of the half, to tie the game at 2-2. Neither team could muster another scoring chance before regulation ended in a tie. Reuben Gonzales scored Toluca’s first goal, off a rebound to give Toluca a 1-0 lead early, and Pancho Morales scored the second regulation goal, in the second half, on a penalty kick. Curiel had both of Fusion’s goals on penalty kicks: In addition to the game-tying score, he converted a point-blank penalty kick in front of the net in the 32nd minute of the first half.
In the first overtime shootout, Toluca appeared to have the upper hand, as Gomez connected to give the squad a 4-3 lead with one Fusion shot left. But Fredy Casarez connected low and left past Gomez to send it to sudden death, where Toluca won the game.
Fusion technical director Rodolfo Garcia declined comment after the game.
Toluca finished its season 15-1-1 overall with Sunday’s win, the only loss coming 3-2 at the hands of Fusion. Fusion finished 11-6-0, picking up a win in Wednesday’s semifinal, when it advanced with a 4-3 win over Buena Vista, last year’s champion.
Chevy’s finishes third
Edgar Bringas and his fourth-seeded Chevy’s Fresh Mex team wrapped up third place in the soccer league finals Sunday, but Bringras wasn’t fully satisfied.
Bringras scored the game’s only goal in the 25th minute of the first half, all the difference Chevy’s needed to win Sunday’s consolation championship, 1-0, over third-seeded and 1998 champion Buena Vista.
“It was just a nice pass, and I just got past a couple of players, and I was running fast, and I scored,” Bringras said.
Chevy’s goalie Juan-Carlos Lopez combined with his back line to keep Buena Vista scoreless, despite several near misses in the second half. Likewise, Chevy’s forward Fernando Garza came within hair’s breadth of an insurance goal.
While Bringas seemed happy to win, he still was thinking of his team’s 2-1 loss to eventual champion Deportivo Toluca in the semifinal round.
“It’s third place, but I’m not satisfied, because I feel like they stole the game to go to the final,” Bringras said.
Chevy’s finished 17-5-9 overall, in third, while fourth-place Buena Vista ended the season with a 9-6-2 mark.
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