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Yorba Linda in hunt for Empire League title
The team went two seasons without winning an Empire League boys soccer game now finds itself fighting for a spot at the top of the standings.
To get there, host Yorba Linda scored three goals in the final 10 minutes, two coming off set pieces, to beat No. 7 Valencia, 3-0, on Wednesday. It was the third shut out in the past four games for the Mustangs, who have allowed just four goals in nine league games. Coming into this match, the Tigers were averaging 2.3 goals per game in league, outscoring their opponents, 23-12 during that span.
The victory moves the Mustangs (9-5-2, 7-2-0), which went a combined 0-24 in the previous two league seasons, to within one-half point of Valencia (14-4-5, 7-2-1) in the standings. Yorba Linda, however, has three games left while Valencia has two matches remaining.
“This was a big one for us. We have people believing in what they can do this season. The kids are buying into what we are doing,” Yorba Linda coach Kino Oaxaca said. “We have a lot of pride in what we are wearing. Our shirt means a lot to us. We also have the best kept secret in the county.”
Well, Jeremy Cser won’t stay that way for long, though, now that he is challenging San Clemente’s Gage Zerboni for the county’s goal-scoring title after knocking in the first two goals for the Mustangs, one of them off a Austin Martin corner kick in the 78th minute.
Cser has 22 goals, which puts him in second place in the county, three goals behind Zerboni.
Martin also scored for the Mustangs, redirecting a 30-yard free kick from Ryan Cooley in stoppage time to set the final margin.
“They have worked their tails off with me for the past year and a half,” Oaxaca said. “There is not an individual on this team. We are a family. They want it. We are hungry.”
Yorba Linda seemed to focus most of its attention on Jesse Gonzalez, often double-teaming Valencia’s senior forward, so most of the Tigers’ offense went through Cole Engstrom, one of the tallest players on the field.
Twice he got a head on the ball inside the box in the second half. One of his shots went wide. The other was stopped by Adam Kaddoura, who had five saves for Yorba Linda. Coming into this match, the Tigers were averaging 2.3 goals per game in league, outscoring their opponents, 23-12 during that span.
During Oaxaca’s 22 years coaching the Esperanza boys soccer team, the Aztecs became a fixture in the CIF-SS playoffs, making it to the finals seven times and winning three Southern Section championships.
But should the Mustangs finish first in the Empire League this season, Oaxaca said that would rank as “one of the top three things” he has done as a high school coach.
“At Esperanza we had the talent. We had 3,200 kids, so I could pick and choose,” Oaxaca said. “Here what we have kids that want to work hard. This is special.”
In other boys soccer:
In the Trinity League:
No. 5 Santa Margarita 1, Orange Lutheran 0: Jake Fisher scored off a cross from Sean Goode to lead the visiting Eagles (16-3-3, 5-0-3).
No. 4 JSerra 4, Servite 3: Jonathan Fabulich and Ether Bustos both finished with a goal and an assist for the host Lions (14-2-3, 6-1-1).
In the Sea View League:
No. 2 El Toro 2, Laguna Hills 0: Michael Bryant and Roger Howard both scored for the host Chargers (22-1-1, 5-0-1).
In the Sunset League:
No. 6 Los Alamitos 3, Edison 0: Ozvaldo Yanez had a goal and an assist to lead the host Griffins (17-3-6, 6-1-1).
In the Century League:
El Dorado 2, Villa Park 0: Jacon Conlon scored off a header in the 15th minute and Max Chevalier scored from 20 yards out in the 39th minute to lead the visiting Golden Hawks (14-6-1, 7-3-0).
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