Los Amigos back in championship hunt


GARDEN GROVE – Just when it looked as if Santiago was going to finally end Los Amigos’ three-season reign atop the Garden Grove League, the Lobos muscled their way back into the championship battle.

On Monday, Cristofer Echeverria scored two goals to lead host Los Amigos to a 2-0 victory against the No. 10 Cavaliers, ranked No. 2 in the most recent CIF-SS Division 5 poll.

With the victory, the Lobos (13-4, 7-2) move to within a half game of first-place Santiago (15-3-5, 7-1-1). To avoid any chance of being co-champions with the Lobos, the Cavaliers must win on Wednesday when they play host to Rancho Alamitos.

If Santiago can indeed finish in first place, Santiago coach Sean Redmond said it would be the Cavaliers’ first league championship in 12 years.

“It would mean a lot because they (Los Amigos) are so good,” he said. “They have been dominant for a long time. Today, they just played better than we did. Today wasn’t our day.”

That, however, doesn’t mean the Cavaliers didn’t have some chances in Monday’s match.

In the ninth minute, Osvaldo Yepez got behind the Lobos’ defenders in the box and fired a shot at the near post, but Jorge Ayala made a diving save for Los Amigos, batting the ball away to set up a Santiago corner kick, which Jorge Cardenas headed over the crossbar for the Cavaliers. Then in the 35th minute, Gerardo Torres split the two Lobos’ marking him, but his shot was just a bit too high, too.

This is the first time in Garden Grove League play that the Cavaliers have been shutout. Coming into this match, Santiago was averaging 3.88 goals per game.

“We have a good mix of talent. They have been determined,” Redmond said. “They have set their minds to it (winning league), and they have never given up.”

But on Monday, Santiago couldn’t find a way to contain Echeverria as just about every scoring opportunity the Lobos had was either set up by an Echeverria shot or pass, and in the 32nd minute he scored the game winner, heading in a corner kick.

“He is one the best players that I have ever had, and I have coached here 10 years,” Los Amigos coach Chris Sandro said of Echeverria. “He is by far the most skilled all around player (at Los Amigos). He is a finisher.”

In the 67th minute, he scored his second goal of the game to set the final margin. And it all started with his pass to Jonatan Ponce. After Echeverria found Ponce in sapce in the left side, Ponce beat his mark as he made his near-post run into the box and crossed the ball Echeverria who knocked it in with one touch.

“Here we are in second place,” Sandro said. “We have been the top dog, but we have gotten knocked off our perch a bit this year. They (Santiago) are a good team. If we got a share (of the championship or the whole thing, it would be big for us.”

In other boys soccer:

In the Pacific Coast League

Woodbridge 2, Corona del Mar 0: Jeon Jihoon and Kadano Shinya both scored for the host Warriors (7-5-5, 5-2-2).

In the Academy League:

Saddleback Valley Christian 7, Capistrano Valley Christian 1: Brock Pittman scored three goals to lead the visiting Warriors (9-2-2 in league).

In the Century League:

Villa Park 3, Canyon 0: Adan Florez finished with a goal and an assist for the Spartans (11-6-2, 7-3-1) at El Modena High

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