It was a rivalry match. It was a match that had strong implications for first place in the Channel League. Santa Barbara and Dos Pueblos meeting at DP in boys soccer. It was supposed to be hot and heavy on a cool night.
It was, instead, a rout.
Behind two goals by Diego Espinoza and one from Jorge Ochoa, the Dons hammered the Chargers, 3-0, to strengthen their lead on first place in the Channel League.
From the opening kickoff, there was little question who the better team was on this night. Santa Barbara’s strategy was to be as disruptive as it could be when DP was on the ball.
“They did a great job of being disruptive,” Dos Pueblos coach Matt York said. “We didn’t link up three or four passes in a row for the entire first half it felt like. They swarmed and they really didn’t allow us to receive anything easily. They made it tough on our kids all game long and it led to turnovers an errant passes.
“We thought that they would do something like they did, but we weren’t prepared for it, and that’s on me. That’s something that we need to work on a little bit more clearly. They played hard. There’s a reason why they’ve only had one loss the whole season so far.”
The Dons improved to 15-1-3 overall and 4-0-1 in league, while the Chargers fell to 12-4-1 and 3-2 in the Channel League.
Santa Barbara coach Todd Heil had so much respect for DP’s ability to possess the ball, that his game plan of disrupting the Chargers as best he could was the only one he felt was going to work.
“DP is a really good team. I think the difference tonight was our game plan, and that was to be as disruptive in their possession as we could,” Heil said. “I think we came out and did that. I think we set the tone from the beginning. Once we were disruptive, it was getting a turnover and then getting a goal.
“I was really proud of the way we played tonight. Really proud.”
The strategy paid off in the 13th minute, when the Dons sent numbers into the DP 18-yard box.
Santa Barbara got Dos Pueblos out of its defensive shape with a loose ball, and before anyone could blink an eye, Ochoa had a look at a wide-open net from 15 yards. He calmly buried a hard, left-footed shot that rippled the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
“That first goal was exactly what we wanted to do, be as disruptive as possible and get in there and crash and hope for turnovers and mistakes,” Heil said. “DP wants to possess, and they’re very good at it if you give them time and space. Our hope tonight was to not give them that time and space. It was all about if we could be as disruptive as we could, and we were on that first goal.”
Santa Barbara’s second goal also came in the same form as the first. And it was a backbreaker for Dos Pueblos.
In the 39th minute, just one minute before halftime, the Dons once again had numbers in the Chargers’ 18-yard box. This time it resulted in a ball bouncing back to Espinoza. Without hesitation, the senior defender ripped a half volley inside the far post for a 2-0 lead just before the break. DP was hoping to equalize or, at the very least, get into halftime just a goal down. Neither scenario played out for York’s side.
“It was rough to concede it pretty late in the first half, for sure,” he said. “It took a little bit for our kids to shake it off at halftime, but I thought by the time we came out of halftime we had moved past that and we had turned the page. You never want to go down extra goals and concede anything in the start or end of halves. That was just rough.”
Heil was impressed with Espinoza’s composure on the shot.
“That goal by Diego was tremendous,” Santa Barbara’s coach said. “He hit that squarely and put it in the back of the net. It was an incredible shot by him. To get that goal just before halftime is huge for us, but for the opposing team, it hurts a little bit.”
Dos Pueblos pressed in the second half to try to cut into the deficit.
The Chargers paid the price on one of those high presses when the Dons broke out of midfield and earned a penalty kick at the other end when junior midfielder Luisangel Jeronimo was taken down in the box.
Espinoza converted the PK for his second goal of the match that sealed the win for the Dons.
“They earned all of their goals,” York said. “I felt like we have a better team than what we showed tonight, and we have to show that we are a better team. I’ve got to get us better prepared for the next time.”