On a breezy Saturday afternoon, we kicked off our match at home against La Sierra University. After losing our last two games, we desperately wanted to snap our losing streak and get back in the win column. We started the game strongly and made many interceptions all over the pitch. Besides a couple of speculative shots from Yauri De Groot, we didn’t create many goal scoring chances in the opening twenty minutes. La Sierra’s clever midfield movement caused us some problems but they failed to register a shot on target. Sadly, at around the twenty minute mark, we lost Yauri De Groot to a nasty arm injury. To make matters worse, two minutes later, they scored. One of their midfielders received the ball in a dangerous area and swiftly chipped a pass in the direction of one of their forwards. As our keeper rushed out to clear the danger their forward deftly poked the ball around him and into our goal.
Their goal injected in us a greater sense of urgency and we began launching more attacks in their half. We got on the scoreboard in the 41st minute. It came courtesy of a set piece. Gerardo De La Torre quickly whipped in a cross from a freekick which bamboozled the entire La Sierra defense. Harrison Gilmer met the cross with a powerful diving header which blasted the back of the net. Following our equalizer, in the dying moments of the half, the ball broke to Jesus Cabrera on the edge of the box and he saw his fierce shot cannon off the post. The half ended with the scoreboard reading Soka 1, La Sierra 1.
After the break, we made a key tactical adjustment which led to us intercepting many of their passes. As a result, we spent the opening ten minutes sending waves of attacks into their half. Crisp passes and clever off-ball movement led to a couple of promising opens which ultimately fizzled out. As the half wore on, we began winning freekicks further up the field. These set pieces failed to test their keeper. Our inability to score the crucial second goal early paved the way for a dramatic ending. With less than seven minutes left on the clock, one of La Sierra’s midfielders threaded a pass beyond our defense to one of their onrushing midfielders. Spotting danger, our keeper bolted off his line and made a crucial tackle to prevent their player from scoring. Yet, to our utter dismay, the referee awarded them a penalty. Our furious protests left him unmoved. La Sierra then expertly dispatched their penalty kick.
Fuming after conceding this goal, we pushed forward in the last five minutes seeking an equalizer. We came closest with a sweetly hit volley by one our midfielders, Linus Ruegger who saw his shot saved by their keeper. At the full time whistle, we left the field incensed over the events that had just transpired. In many ways, this game had followed a similar script to a game we played two years ago at home against this same team. The referee, in both games, with his puzzling decisions, played a decisive role in our losses. After somewhat coming to grips with the result, we left the field knowing that a win in our next game would keep us in the playoff hunt. Onto Antelope Valley!