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PAUL RODRIGUEZ , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Chula Vista goalie David Loya punches the ball away from El Toro's Ezekiel Ochoa in the first round of the CIF Southern California Division I Regional boys soccer playoff on Tuesday.

El Toro falls in state regional

STAFF WRITER

LAKE FOREST – - Early in the second half of Tuesday’s CIF Southern California Division 1 Regional boys soccer game, El Toro coach Shawn Watts begged his team to “play with some urgency.”

They did, but it was too little and too late.

The Chargers, who lost their first game of the season Saturday in the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 final, couldn’t overcome an early goal by Chula Vista on Tuesday and lost to the Spartans, 1-0, at El Toro High.

“It was hard to stay motivated for this game after the wind got taken out of our sails on Saturday,” said Watts. “Not to take anything away from Chula Vista, but I definitely think we were the better team. It just wasn’t our day.”

Chula Vista, the No. 2-ranked team in the San Diego Section, outshot the Chargers, 14-7, and dominated play throughout the first half. The Spartans sliced through El Toro’s defense for eight shots on goal in the first half.

“I thought we should’ve had three goals in the first half,” said Chula Vista coach Ruben Oliveira.

The Spartans only got one, but it proved to be enough.

In the 15th minute, junior Iraq Blanco was left unmarked on the right side and delivered a cross deep in the 18-yard box to senior Fernando Aguila, who backheaded a shot over El Toro goalkeeper Mac Hutchins and to the netting on the far post.

“We had some open space to run our wings in the first half. We had 2-3 good chances (to score),” said Oliveira.

The Spartans were also coming off a devastating loss, falling in the semifinals of their section’s Open Division playoffs. The victory advances the Spartans (17-3-6) to the regional semifinals, where they will face Buchanan of Clovis on Thursday.

“I told the kids that this is our second chance to show what we’ve got. I think that got them up for today’s game,” said Oliveira.

El Toro (15-2-8) began to develop some scoring chances of their own in the final 30 minutes of the match, mainly off long throw-ins by senior defenseman Ethan Thrall.

In the 52nd minute, a throw-in ricocheted to junior Heny Alvarez just five 5 from the goal, but his kick sailed over the crossbar. Ten minutes later, another throw-in by Thrall was headed by senior Khalid Francis just inches over the crossbar.

“I was worried,” said Oliveira. “Anything can happen on those throw-ins. A cheap goal counts as much as any other.”

“We just didn’t fight in the final third (of the field),” said Watts. “We didn’t do what was needed to do to score a goal. that was disappointing.”

Despite the loss, Watts said he was pleased with the season.

“We’ve had an unbelievable year. We won league for the third year in a row, and made a run at CIF to get to the final. We’ve got so much to build on,” he said.

And next year?

“Next year is going to be tough. We lose our whole backline and they are unreplaceable,” Watts said. “But in a couple of years, I think we’ll be a force again.”

Contact the writer: 714-796-2247 or magarcia@ocregister.com


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