Wallace scores late, South Tahoe boys soccer rallies to tie Sparks 2-2
South Tahoe goalkeeper Kade Wallace scored an improbable game-tying goal in the last minute of the Vikings’ match against Sparks on Tuesday — then had to make plays in front of his own net to preserve the point. South Tahoe rallied for a 2-2 tie with the Railroaders at Viking Stadium, playing a man down for the last 30 minutes of a wild second half.
“The boys knew that we needed a result going into the second half of the season to keep that playoff hope alive — and they came out and did that,” Vikings head coach Ben Hannah said. “They played with heart, they played for each other and they got the necessary result.”
In the last minute of the match, South Tahoe (3-4-1, 3-3-1 Northern I-A) drew a corner kick that represented its last chance to pull even. Wallace sprinted forward and found a spot in the Sparks penalty box a few yards out from the far post as midfielder Danny Teran sent the corner into the box.
Teran’s cross found Wallace between two Railroaders defenders, and the Vikings’ keeper blasted a header into the net to make the score 2-2. Wallace was mobbed by teammates on the way back to his goal after scoring the improbable equalizer.
“I went black as soon as it hit my head, and when I opened my eyes it was in the goal,” Wallace said. “My heart stopped for sure — the team crowded me and I just knew.”
After Wallace tied the match, he had to make a pair of saves to keep the score even — the second stop came on a breakaway just before time expired. Sparks forward Jesus Partida broke free and fired a low shot that Wallace did the splits to save — the ensuing rebound sailed over the crossbar.
“I was little scared — but I was committed and I went for it,” Wallace said.
In a match characterized by physical play, South Tahoe suffered a blow seven minutes into the second half when defender Jack Kixmiller was given a red card for slide tackling a Railroaders player from behind. Both teams were tied 1-1 when Kixmiller was sent off, and his red card gave Sparks (10-0-1, 3-0-1) a man advantage for the last 30 minutes of the match.
“We were a little unfortunate to take the red card, but I think it was probably a fair call,” Hannah said. “It did change the tone for a minute or two, but we were able to fight at that point.”
The Vikings created a handful of chances with 10 players, but had to withstand constant pressure from the Railroaders. In the 72nd minute, Sparks’ Cesar Arroyo scored on a free kick from near midfield to take a 2-1 lead — Arroyo sent the ball into the box and it sailed over an outstretched Wallace, who came off his line but was shielded from the ball.
South Tahoe had a pair of free kicks and a corner before the set piece that resulted in its game-tying goal. When the final whistle sounded, the Vikings’ bench spilled onto the field to celebrate the draw against the team that eliminated them in the 2013 postseason — the tie ended Sparks’ 10-match winning streak to start the season.
“Sparks has been a nemesis in soccer here for a while — last year they beat us two times in three really close games and they’ve been superphysical,” Hannah said. “They’re a good hardfighting squad — and we wanted to go in and get a result.”
In the first half, Sparks struck first on a free kick that went over the head of a blocked off Wallace and into the back of the net. South Tahoe answered just before the break with a 35th-minute strike from junior midfielder Eduardo Vasquez, who had become eligible earlier this week following an administrative issue.
“He came onto the field as a substitute and he ripped a shot from about 25 yards that went over the keeper, off the bottom of the bar and into the goal — that set the tone,” Hannah said.
In addition to providing the assist on South Tahoe’s game-tying goal, Teran drew praise from Hannah for his offensive play on the left side in the first half. Defensively, Hannah said that left back Cristian Ramos was all over the field throughout the match as part of a strong Vikings’ back line.
“We played team defense today — we collapsed on the ball really well,” Hannah said.
Tuesday’s result keeps South Tahoe within reach of the top four spots in the league standings, where it will need to finish to qualify for the regional playoffs. With one match remaining in the first round of league play, the Vikings are in position to make a push for the postseason.
“We played as a team for the first time — we played for each other and not as individuals. We came to play as a unit and a family,” Wallace said. “This is definitely a breakthrough for our team — it’s the start of something.”
South Tahoe returns to action on Friday, when it wraps up the first round of league play against Lowry at Viking Stadium. The match is scheduled to start at 5 p.m.