Royals barely hang on against DP, 1-0

Goalkeeper Efren Guttierez might not have made the save the way he planned, but the junior captain did save the San Marcos boys soccer team in a crucial 1-0 Channel League victory over Dos Pueblos on the Royals’ field Tuesday.

As the Chargers fought to equalize an early San Marcos goal, Eduardo Cortez broke free down the right side in the 73rd minute and Gutierrez came off his line to aggressively counter the DP forward. Gutierrez may have come out a little too quickly as he was already outside the penalty box by the time Cortez saw him coming and decided to shoot.

Gutierrez, already sliding in front of Cortez to stop a ball on the ground, could do nothing but use his arm to stop the on-goal attempt, thus drawing a red card.

“It was an absolute red card, absolute right call,” agreed Royals assistant Bryan Gallop, who wasn’t the slightest bit displeased with it because Gutierrez effectively stopped Dos Pueblos for scoring in a must-win situation for San Marcos. “It was a good decision that he made and any other player would have made that decision as well.”

On the ensuing free kick, Rodrigo Perez’s ball was knocked out of bounds for a corner kick, which also backfired against the now short-handed but determined Royals.

San Marcos had taken the lead in the 16th minute when Jake Smargon headed home a pass from Alvaro Garcia.  The opportunity was created by Jacinto Barreto coming from the right side and sending a nice cross into the penalty area.

“Going down early was real tough on us,” said Chargers head coach Tovi Eliasen, whose sqaud falls to 7-14-3, 1-4-2 in league.

The game had a playoff-like intensity with the two sides fighting for sole possession of third place in league with the end of the regular season fast approaching.

“Rough in result and rough on the field by both teams, but that’s natural for a Channel League game of this magnitude, where the winner basically has a good shot of making playoffs,” said Eliasen.

DP’s chances have been greatly diminished after the loss. The Chargers’ final game is against 20-2-1 Santa Barbara.

San Marcos (8-9-4, 2-3-1) has two tough games remaining: at home against No. 2 Santa Barbara and away at No. 1 Ventura.

“Right now we’re in third place – that’s a playoff spot. I’m stoked, the boys are stoked,” said Royals head coach Brian Eisen. “Regardless of how we played – because the last 20 minutes was a lot of chasing around especially with a man down – we did what we had to do. We got the goal, we got the win, we got the three points. And we got third-place by a two point advantage.”