In a hard fought game that was decided by a penalty shootout, the De Anza College men’s soccer team was able to squeak out a tremendous win 1-1(4-3 on penalties) to advance in the playoffs against City College of San Francisco on Tuesday, Nov. 25.
Both teams were strong defensively throughout the game with each team holding one another in check by clogging the defense and battling it out in the midfield.
“We went into the game understanding that CCSF would make it very difficult,” said head coach Rusty Johnson “We knew both sides would be stingy and force the other to extend themselves before the scoring began.”
The Dons filled the opening ten minutes with chances and the best one came off the head of leading scorer Rajee Delane, who directed the ball just over the net off of a free kick. Deeper into the half, the game settled down with each team only gaining a few opportunities but Conference Goalkeeper of the Year, Arshia Aghababazadeh was forced to make three key saves to keep the game scoreless going into halftime.
The Dons were in locked in a dogfight going into the half tied 0-0.
During the second half, Delane and his teammates created a few minor chances while continuing to play solid defense against an even opponent. In the last 20 minutes of the second half, San Francisco started to come forward more often and create more chances leaving the Dons reeling going into extra time.
“Going into the game we knew this would be our toughest game of the year,” said forward Rajee Delane. “I feel that games with such high levels of intensity, it’s important to stay calm in these situations”
San Francisco continued to pressure the stout De Anza defense in extra time and in the 114th minute there was a breakthrough. The Rams managed to score on a cross to sophomore right-winger Felix Gonzalez who headed it across goal while freshman defender Kyle Gavce was able to find the ball and tap it in to give them a one-goal advantage.
After the goal the Dons fell into a different formation by pushing men forward to try and create the goal that would level the match. In the 116th minute freshman midfielder Javier Ceballos raced down the wing and was taken down in the box drawing a crucial penalty shot for De Anza. Ceballos was able to hop up and convert the penalty, drawing the game level and forcing a penalty shootout.
With both teams standing anxiously at midfield, the first two shooters were able to convert, but San Francisco fell behind as Dons freshman goalkeeper Carlos Mendez saved their next two shooters brilliantly. The Rams converted their last penalty, but De Anza sniper Delane tucked home the final penalty completing the comeback win.
The next playoff game will be Saturday Nov. 29 at 2 p.m. against West Valley, where De Anza will be looking for revenge against the team that handed them their only loss of the season.