By Miguel A. Melendez
LA CAADA — Well after the match ended, there was little anyone could say or do to console a fatigued Brian Blumenfeld.
After all, it was his keen eye that created numerous scoring opportunities for the La Caada High School boys soccer team.
For a split second, keeper Jack Hale braced an arm over his shoulder before choosing instead to walk alone.
In a match where they experienced a roller coaster of emotions, the Spartans certainly didn’t expect to find themselves in the lower tier of that ride, especially after their frantic effort in the waning minutes.
What felt like the beginning of something special came to an abrupt ending for La Caada on Thursday afternoon.
Baldwin Park held off the Spartans just long enough to win, 5-3, on penalty kicks after a 2-2 tie in the quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division V playoffs.
There was a little bit of everything in this match, highlighted by picturesque goals and creative counter attacks by a Spartans (18-7-3) team that matched the Braves’ (24-1) dominance in stretches at a time.
Finding themselves trailing 1-0 in the 16th minute off a Andrew Gonzalez goal, the Spartans scored the equalizer in dramatic fashion.
It had only started, but La Caada began executing its passing game. That’s when Matt McKenzie flew in from the top of the goalie’s box to score off a header in the 28th minute.
But there were some defensive lapses for the Spartans. None was more painful than Baldwin Park’s second goal in the 34th minute.
Off a throw-in from the left wing, Alberto Orozco scored from 17 yards out to make it 2-1. More upsetting was that the ball bounced at least four times before Orozco converted.
“I got on them at halftime about that,” La Caada coach Jordan Jones said. “As a defender you have to take pride to clearing the ball out of the box. You can’t give a good team two or three chances that close in; yeah, I’d like to have that goal back.”
McKenzie’s second goal came in the 49th minute. His turnaround shot from 23 yards out tied it again, 2-2.
“He was at the right spot at the right time,” Jones said. “Sometimes that’s just the way it goes. First goal was a beautiful goal; couldn’t ask for anything better than that.”
La Caada outshot the second-seeded Braves in the second half and recorded more shots on goal.
They came close each time — especially in the 78th minute.
It was McKenzie again who almost recorded the hat trick that would have given the Spartans the lead.
He charged to the far post off a throw-in and managed to get off a shot, but Baldwin Park keeper Freddy Salazar extended his leg as far wide as he could and diverted the shot off his left foot.
Just like that, La Caada was that close from moving on to the semifinals. It wasn’t the Spartans’ only serious threat. Three times the Spartans slightly trailed on serious threats, only to watch the ball head out of bounds.
“I try not to think about it too much,” Jones said.
No parent seemed to either as they walked down from the stands and onto the field to congratulate Jones for what they called an awesome experience.
“It was an awesome game,” Baldwin Park coach Ricardo Mira said. “Either way, like you said, we got lucky at the end.”
TODAY’S QUARTERFINAL RESULTS
St. Francis 3, Long Beach Jordan 2, OT: The Golden Knights (15-5-4) trailed twice before senior forward Amir Moore followed through on a deflection to score the winner in overtime in Division I action. St. Francis will host second-seed Long Beach Millikan in Tuesday’s semifinal.
Salesian 4, Monrovia 2: The visiting Wildcats (21-3-3) were six minutes away from sending the game into overtime, but then came two Mustangs (15-2-5) goals that dashed those hopes. It was going to be one of those days for Monrovia. Turner Ward scored in the 39th minute to tie the score, 1-1, and with a chance to head into halftime with the momentum. But Salesian had other plans when it scored in stoppage time to make it 2-1. Off a Ward free kick, Anthony Guerra made it 2-2 in the 46th minute, but that’s as close as the Wildcats would get. Monrovia coach Mike Williams said it was a good run. It is the Wildcats’ first quarterfinals appearance. Though they lose its entire attacking line, Monrovia is expected to have a strong run next season. “I’m losing my whole attacking line but I’m already looking at how I’m building the team that’s returning,” Williams said. “They were young but have a lot of experience. I’m already excited for next season.”
Baldwin Park 2, La Caada 2 (Baldwin Park wins on PK’s, 5-3)
Rosemead 5, Barstow 2: There’s some unsettled business the Rosemead High School boys soccer team would like to take care of before the season ends. The Panthers took one step closer of accomplishing that after routing Barstow, 5-2, in the quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division VI playoffs Friday afternoon. Rosemead (16-4-4) will play the Silverado-Crossroads winner in Tuesday’s semifinals at a site to be determined. Bryan Vasquez scored two goals and assisted on another to lead the Panthers who are one win away from reaching the finals where they could potentially face Mission Valley League foe Mountain View. The Vikings advanced in the other semifinal bracket. “It went outstanding,” an exuberant Rosemead coach Rick Ingram said. “Our team came through real good.” The match was tightly contested through much of the first half until Raul Lira swung momentum on the Panthers’ side by making it 2-1 in the 37th minute. Kevin Bustamante made key saves to help Rosemead preserve the lead. Edson Quinteros and German Carillo each scored a goal to pad the lead for the Panthers. “So many people have been doubting us,” Ingram said. “We just have to make some believers out of them, and our kids are doing that because they’re playing so well. I’m so proud of them.” Rosemead lost to Mountain View in the first meeting and recorded a tie in the second meeting. “That’s going to be a great end to a great story,” Ingram said. “Don’t be surprised. I know they beat us the first game but the second game we missed the penalty kick but we had them.”
Above: Little did I know that veteran and Star-News ace photographer Keith Birmingham was shooting me as I strolled my way over to the La Caada side.