Exactly one year ago on March 3, 2017, Port Of Los Angeles High girls soccer captured their first CIF-LACS (Division 2) championship in program history with a 2-1 sudden death overtime triumph over Grant of Van Nuys. Fast forward to Saturday, March 3, 2018 and this time it was San Pedro High boys soccer in pursuit of a CIF crown as they battled University of Los Angeles for the Division 4 title.
For 80 minutes of regulation, neither team scored. Four minutes into the first overtime, San Pedro junior wing Juan Retana would score to break the ice. Three minutes later, University junior midfielder Denilson Garcia would answer with a goal of his own. Game remained tied at 1-1 but the penalty kick shootout would determine a champion
The Pirates were up to the challenge as they made all five kicks, as the final one by sophomore wing player Billy Lopez would deliver San Pedro the CIF-LACS Division 4 championship, their first boys soccer CIF title since 1987.
“We went in with the mentality of winning it all,” San Pedro senior midfielder Jorge Alvarenga said. “To be able to do so with hard work and dedication we got what we wanted.”
It was a physical and emotional duel between San Pedro (14-8-2 overall) and University (15-5-5) as a whopping ten cards were issued out, nine combined yellow cards and one red card, which the Wildcats drew for a hard foul from behind in the 58th minute, giving San Pedro a one-man advantage for the remainder of the game up until the title-deciding shootout.
In the first half, San Pedro, who nearly scored two minutes into the contest, would control the majority of the field possession, but the Wildcats had the two closest scoring opportunities, missing a shot off the crossbar in the 17th minute, then missing again via a header off a perfectly placed free kick 14 minutes later. San Pedro would dictate the pace, moving the ball even better in the second half after the red card from University, including getting a breakaway chance, but to no avail, setting the stage for overtime.
In the game's official 86th minute, junior defender Pablo Alvarez would throw it in to Alvarenga, who fought off University senior defender Carlos Onofre before crossing a pass to Retana, who tapped it in just past junior goalie Angel Olivares for the 1-0 San Pedro lead. After a foul in the box during the seventh minute of the first overtime, Garcia would blast in his tying free kick which deflected off a Pirate blocker out of the reach of Hernandez.
No goals were scored during the second ten-minute overtime frame, but due to the rainy conditions from Friday and during the game on the Valley College turf, the CIF-LACS elected to bypass the two five-minute sudden death periods and the game would immediately would turn to the shootout to finish the game.
The shootout coin toss was won by San Pedro and they elected to shoot first. Alvarenga boomed in his kick from his left foot past Olivares. Garcia did the same to tie the shootout at 1. Senior goalie Kevin Hernandez would blast in his kick to put Pedro in front to stay, then fired up the crowd... and stopped Onofre's attempt to tie with a diving save to the left side of the net.
Most goalies who shoot on penalty kicks tend to crack under the intense pressure, but Hernandez embraced it, first by firing up the San Pedro crowd after making his kick, then making the save to deny Onofre, which fired the Pirate contingent up even more.
“It was very crucial for me to have the CIF title in the palms of my hands knowing I had a historical city that has been waiting 31 years for another high school soccer title,” Hernandez said. “I knew I had to perform the way I did especially for my hard-working coaches and teammates, for our supportive fans, and to accomplish my biggest high school goal, we did it for the culture.”
Senior midfielder Albert Bier and sophomore midfielder Eric Alvarez would make their penalty kicks to put the Pirates ahead 4-2 in the shootout, but after University made their third kick in four attempts to give the Wildcats a glimmer of hope to stay alive, in came Lopez to seal the deal.
Lopez powered through his shot into the right corner of the net, setting off a joyous celebration for San Pedro, capping off a very tense run to the championship with their second straight shootout win of the tournament. The Pirates also edged North Hollywood, 4-2 on penalty kicks after the game finished in a 2-2 draw in the semifinals on February 27, while also holding off Bernstein of Los Angeles and Jordan of Los Angeles in the first two rounds by a pair of 2-1 margins.
“We felt very fortunate coming in,” Alvarez said. “But after we won CIF for the first time in 30 years, we felt like legends.”
During the year, San Pedro finished third in the Marine League with a 6-3-1 mark (all three losses were by one goal), also posting solid wins over Redondo Union, Granada Hills and neighbor POLA in December.