M. Soccer: Ninth win in a row spurned on by second half effort

Teammates congratulation Ernesto Cueva (3) after his header in the second minute of the Falcons 5-0 win over El Camino
Teammates congratulation Ernesto Cueva (3) after his header in the second minute of the Falcons 5-0 win over El Camino

Although they scored in just the second minute of the game, the Cerritos College men's soccer team played a better second half in their 5-0 South Coast Conference South Division win over visiting El Camino College on Tuesday. The victory was the ninth in a row for the nation's top-ranked team, while the Falcons (16-1-2) also extended their unbeaten streak to 18 (16-0-2) in a row. Dating back to last season, the team has gone (33-1-9), and they will close out the regular season on Friday with a 3:00 p.m. divisional game at Long Beach City College. This season also marks the team's third straight SCC South Division championship.

"This was a great victory for us," said head coach Benny Artiaga. "I told our guys to enjoy the moment and don't undervalue a conference title. Even though we have bigger fish to fry, this was our goal from the start of the season; to keep the conference title here at Cerritos where it belongs."

In just the second minute of the game, sophomore Erick Gallinar (Connections Academy HS/UC Irvine) lined up for a long free kick and sent a pass into the box, where freshman Ernesto Cueva (Bassett HS) was there to head home the ball past Warriors (7-7-5, 2-3-2) goalkeeper Brandon Cardenas. It marked the fifth goal of the season for the defender.

Dominating the play for the first 22 minutes, the Falcons weren't able to add to their lead, while they had to withstand a resurgence from El Camino offense the remainder of the first half. Sophomore goalkeeper Jordan Aldama (North Torrance HS) was up to the task and turned away three of his five saves on the day, with the Cerritos defense able to handle any pressure coming from the Warriors.

Regrouping at halftime, the Falcons came out and added to their lead less than eight minutes into the second half. Gallinar, who moved into a tie for fourth place in the state after his three-assist day, sent another ball into a cluster of players in front of the Warriors net. Only one player was able to get a handle on the pass, and it was freshman Kevin Diaz (Connections Academy HS), who got his shot through multiple legs and past Cardenas into the net.

Riding the momentum of the second half goal, sophomore Esteban Camacho (Mayfair HS) squared up against a bouncing loose ball from about 35 yards out and fired a perfect strike that went under the crossbar for his fourth goal of the year in the 69th minute of the game.

Getting stronger as the game progressed, the Falcons added to their total just three minutes later, when Gallinar got the ball to Diaz, who saw that Cardenas was well out of the net. Diaz, who scored a hat trick on the day, lofted a long, high shot that had top-spin and bounced into the net past a diving Cardenas. The game's final goal came with the help of Aldama, who got the play started. Sending a clearing pass right on the foot of freshman Brandon Pelayo (Cesar Chavez HS), he deflected the ball to Diaz, who dribbled 10 yards before firing off a shot that found the inside corner of the net.

Photos by Daryl Peterson