- By Nathan Mollat Daily Journal Staff
Maybe the Half Moon Bay boys’ soccer team, which sits atop the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division standings, was overlooking a Capuchino side that has struggled in division play.
Maybe the Cougars, who had won all eight of their previous league games, were ripe for the picking.
Maybe the Mustangs would put together an inspired performance and pull off the upset of the season.
Yet despite all their first-half shortcomings, the Cougars held a 2-1 advantage at halftime and went on to a 3-1 victory to improve to 9-0 in PAL Ocean Division games.
“In the first half, [Cap] ran more than we did,” said HMB head coach Jeff Turgeon. “They pull the offside trap very well.”
They were whistled for four offside infractions in the first half.
The game turned on a 20-minute period that spanned the end of the first half and the opening minutes of the second. It turned into a pair of goals for the Cougars that took the wind out of the Mustangs’ sails.
Vega went down, the referee awarded a penalty kick and brandished the yellow card to the defender for protesting the call.
HMB’s Christian Martinez made the ensuing free kick and the Cougars rode that momentum into halftime.
It didn’t take long for Vega to create an opportunity once again with his speed. He again ran onto a through ball with the same defender on his his hip, who grabbed Vega’s arm as he started to pull away.
Foul. Second yellow card. Ejection and the Mustangs playing a man down six minutes into the second half.
Making the foul even worse was the fact the Cougars scored for a 3-1 lead. Octavio DeLeon stepped into the free kick from 20 yards out, sending a low cross into the mass of bodies in the penalty box. Sophomore Saul Villafuerte, who had just come on a second-half substitute, managed to have the ball on his foot and a sliver of space. He turned and almost cupped a shot just inside the left post for the score.
“We just melted after that,” said Capuchino head coach David Linton.”That red card got in their heads, then we lost our structure.”
HMB had a number of more chances as the Cougars went after the 10-man Mustangs, outshooting them 9-1 in the second half and 16-6 overall. But the Cougars could not finish several opportunities, which Turgeon said has been an issue this season.
“We should have had more,” Turgeon said.
While it was HMB’s speed that ultimately helped decide the game’s final two goals, it was a ball that bounced the Cougars’ way that led to the game’s first goal in the ninth minute. It was HMB’s first real scoring opportunity when the Cougars received a throw-in deep in the Cap end. A shot from the top of the penalty box was not hit hard but was well placed, forcing the Cap goalkeeper to make a sprawling save.
But he could not corral the ball, merely pushing it aside. HMB’s DeLeon came flying in from the right wing, beat the goalkeeper to the rebound and put it away for a 1-0 Cougars’ lead.
The Mustangs were still in the game, however, and they controlled most of the final 30 or so minutes. They scored the equalizer on a long run by Jose Chavolla. He received a pass near midfield, went down the left sideline, angled in on goal and hammered a shot from 20 yards out that beat the goalkeeper to the near left post.
Six minutes later, the Cougars had grabbed the lead and 45 minutes after that, their ninth straight league victory.
“For a 9-0 team, we need to get better. We have to finish better,” Turgeon said. “But it is a team I thought could be competitive (this season), if they can just keep their heads in it.”