El Toro ties Mission Viejo, complicating its playoff hopes

LAKE FOREST – El Toro needed to win its South Coast League match Tuesday against Mission Viejo to remain in contention to earn one of the league's two guaranteed playoff berths.

A victory would have improved the Diablos' postseason chances, too, strengthening their hold on first place.

The game, however, ended in a 0-0 tie, complicating the Chargers’ path to the postseason.

The best the Chargers (7-5-5, 1-3-3) can do is place third, El Toro coach Shawn Watts said after the game. That means the Chargers will need an at-large berth into the playoffs.

The South Coast League is a five-team league, and only the top two teams advance automatically, and those spots currently belong to San Clemente and Mission Viejo.  

Missing Viejo  (4-7-1, 4-2-1) was in fist place heading into the El Toro game, but Tuesday's result allowed San Clemente, which was idle, to move to the top of the league standings with one game remaining.  

“Now that we can’t win league,” Watts said, “our goal is just to get there (the playoffs) and see what happens from there.”

The host Chargers had plenty of chances to win the match, including one in the final minute when Daniel Parker smashed a 40-yard shot into the front of the crossbar.

It was Elijah Amadin, though, who created most of the chances for El Toro, putting three crosses into the 6-yard box that almost turned into goals. Ezekiel Ochoa, Parker and Arturo Chavez were on the end of Amadin’s passes, and they each came within inches of knocking the ball in.

“That has been the story of our season,” Watts said. “In this game you have got to be lucky sometimes, and this year we weren’t. Last year, we used up all of our luck in our run in CIF, so we are on the flip side this year, which can be a blessing in disguise. It might have humbled us a bit.”

With Nathan Berlandier out of the lineup due to an injury and Jamey Meyer on the bench because of an illness, Mission Viejo was missing two of its forwards and couldn’t create many chances in the final third.

Meyer is one of Mission Viejo’s leading scorers. He has three goals, which shows you how much of a struggle in general it has been this season for Mission Viejo score. Isaac Pinto leads the team with four goals.

“We have been scoring from the midfield. We have been scoring off overlaps,” Mission Viejo coach Roger Castle said. “We are grinding it out.”

Noah Covarrubias came the closest to putting the Diablos on the board, lining a long-distance shot just over the crossbar.

“There are not a lot of superstars on this team, but the atmosphere is fabulous. There is a lot of good camaraderie,” Castle said. “We have played some better football, but we are grinding out some results.”

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