BY ANTHONY MENDOLIA
Photo courtesy of COD Athletics. Desert fights to win the header in the Jaguar box.
With first place in the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference on the line, COD (4-2-2;2-0-2) took on the Southwestern Jaguars on Sept. 25. The result was not what Head Coach Enrique Cardenas envisioned for his squad, as the Roadrunners had to storm back in the second half to salvage a 2-2 draw.
“It was by far our worst half all season long,” Cardenas said, referring to his team’s first-half performance. “It was the game that had the most on the line. We were playing for first place and our guys came out super flat.”
The first half also included a few questionable calls from the side judge while Desert was on the attack. First, it appeared that the Roadrunners had a clear chance on goal after a beautiful call throw from midfield, but it was ruled that the forward was offside, drawing ire from the home team’s bench.
Shortly after, Southwestern got on the board first with a goal from Ivan Ramos off a corner kick, making it 0-1 Jaguars. Later in the half, another breakaway for COD was called back by the same line judge for a foul on the Jaguars, even though the Roadrunner forward wanted to keep moving on goal which the referee could have clearly allowed.
Coach Cardenas was not pleased with those two calls, saying, “we should have scored two goals on those two plays, that would have got us going but at the end of the day you’re always going to have to deal with the refs.”
In addition to those two calls, Cardenas wasn’t happy with the referee, who also did not allow any extra time at the end of either half, despite there being two water breaks and several stoppages of play due to small injuries and cards being given out.
“I get he was tired because it’s hot, but it’s not fair to the guys on both sides out there who were tired as well…we didn’t even have extra time and there were two water breaks, so it was kind of a joke, to be honest with you.”
The Roadrunners did come out of halftime with some definite motivation to get back on level terms, dominating possession with clean passing and getting the ball into the final third with relative ease. But for the most part, the finishing of these chances could have been better only 11 of the 32 Desert shots were on goal.
After Southwestern made it 0-2 in the 62nd minute after a strike off the rebound of a free kick, it was freshman forward Alejandro Pimentel, from Desert Mirage High School, who seized control of the game just two minutes later. He did this by curling a free kick at the top of the box over the wall, and over the fingertips of the leaping Jaguar goalkeeper, making it 1-2.
Then, in the 81st minute, Pimentel sent the Desert fans in hysteria. Freshman midfielder Jesus Gutierrez from Desert Mirage High School, cutting in towards goal from the right wing sent a bouncing ball across to the top of the box, where Pimentel unleashed a scissor-kick volley to send a scorching ball into the back of the net. The goal made it 2-2, and saved a draw for the Roadrunners.
“The kid’s a bright man, he has a bright future, he’s exceptional,” Coach Cardenas said about his star forward.
When asked what the team needs to work on in practice before their next game at San Diego City on Friday, Coach Cardenas answered with one simple word, “finishing.” Now we’ll see if the Roadrunners respond to their coach’s advice in San Diego.