Two teams, each with Rams as its mascot, locked horns in a Coast Conference soccer showdown that left both sides seeing red – and that wasn’t just the color of both jerseys.
A physical and evenly paced contest started one way, shifted another and changed again when Gavilan had to play the final 30 minutes a man down after forward Pedro Ulloa received his second yellow card, which translates into a red card and ejection.
The fiery matchup was settled late as City College of San Francisco, the No.1-ranked team in the state coming in, closed with two crucial goals to sink Gavilan 4-1 and keep its undefeated record (11-0-2 overall, 6-0-2 conference) in tact Tuesday in Gilroy.
“I think there were three major factors in that game,” said a mild-mannered Justin Johnson, Gavilan’s head coach.
“One was them. They were very good, they finished their chances when they got then and that puts us playing from behind. Two was the referee. We definitely deserved that red, but even their coach said they probably deserved one or two as well. Three is really the only one that we have control over, and that’s ourselves. We had plenty of chances to put it away. We had plenty of opportunities to be better defensively, and we weren’t. So as good as we feel we played, we also feel very, very bad because we had those chances.”
Gavilan (6-6-3 overall, 2-2-3 conference) faced a 2-0 deficit entering the second half. A different home team, which had actually controlled possession from about the 26th minute on into halftime, came out after the break and aggressively attacked the CCSF defensive third.
“We just came out flat and I think gave them a little too much respect,” Josh Gonzalez said. “At halftime, we realized that we could control the tempo against these guys. We have that mentality that as long as we play our game, we can play with everybody.”
Gavilan quickly trimmed the margin to 2-1 when Anthony Velazquez converted a free kick from just outside the penalty area in the 49th minute.
Three offside infractions over the next 10 minutes wiped out promising Gavilan opportunities. The red card to Ulloa was issued in the 60th minute after a hard foul outside of CCSF’s box.
The man-down reality didn’t seem to slow Gavilan, though.
Three minutes later, CCSF was called for a handball at point-blank range. Velazquez, on a quick restart on the indirect kick, passed the ball to an oncoming Fabian Ruiz, but the golden opportunity to find the equalizer skipped off the crossbar and out of play.
“Like I told these guys, we are just as good as any of these teams out here,” Johnson said. “It’s a disappointing loss because we had them on the ropes for moments in the game and we weren’t able to take them out.”
In the 68th minute, Velazquez nearly redirected a header by Gonzalez that was bouncing far post. His sliding shot was bumped out by Hernandez, who had moved to his left just in time.
Gavilan goalie Eric Saavedra, who made eight saves, often of the highlight variety, in the game, kept it a one-goal differential in the 75th minute, chasing Julian Del Toro, who had just won a 50-50 ball at the edge of the penalty area, to a bad angle before making the save near post.
Del Toro had his revenge four minutes later, though, depositing an insurance goal in the 79th.
The effects of playing a man down began to show as the second half drew to a close, and CCSF, with a Ricardo Guerra goal, capitalized to make it 4-1.
“We did run out of gas, but during the game, we didn’t really realize that we were a man down because we were playing so well,” Moya said.
Gavilan appeared it would have its tanks emptied long before the resilient second half as CCSF took a 1-0 advantage less than a minute into the game (Alejandro Martinez Garcia) and a 2-0 advantage (Del Toro) 24 minutes in.
“I think we could have been a little scared because that’s the number one team in the state,” Moya said. “And for a lot of these guys that’s new – the energy this type of game brings. For a lot of us, we were on our heels instead of going right at them. I think after those two goals, we were keeping the ball, keeping the momentum and going at them. We could have beaten this team.”
With seven games remaining in the regular season, the bounce back after facing the uphill climb has Gavilan anxious for its next tilt Friday at home against Mission.
“We have the confidence, and we saw that today. We didn’t lose a step being down,” Johnson said. “But we have to figure out how to be more consistent on the field throughout an entire game, and really have more ice in our veins.”