PICO RIVERA — It’s only fitting to start the Del Rio League schedule with the top two teams in the preseason facing each other in the first league game.
After a defensive battle early in Tuesday’s opener, El Rancho’s boys scored two quick goals and went on to win 4-1 over visiting Santa Fe at Smith Park.
The Dons (10-2-1, 1-0), who have won six out of the last seven DRL titles, received balanced scoring after four different players found the back of the goal.
Scoring for El Rancho were Steve Acuna, Adrian Lopez, Ishmael Guizar and Rodrigo Saldana.
After a back-and-forth first half with very few opportunities at either end, the Dons finally broke through with two goals just five minutes apart.
The first came after Acuna took a cross and scored in the lower right corner in the 20th minute. Five minutes later, Lopez scored his team-leading 11th goal after a long pass from senior Fernando Vargas.
However, Santa Fe junior midfielder Saul Garcia cut the Dons’ lead in half in the 67th minute when he took the ball all alone and beat El Rancho goalie Carlos Mendez in the right corner of the goal.
After the Chiefs (7-3-1, 0-1) missed an opportunity to tie the game, Saldana sprinted down the right side, beating his defender, and made a perfect cross to Guizar, who one-timed the shot to take a 3-1 lead in the 71st minute.
El Rancho coach Gerry Goyeaga: “For a while there the expectations actually were a little bit down and we had to work back up with the program. All of the games in this league will be good and there are very good teams which are very competitive.”
Santa Fe coach Erik Mallory said: “We felt that we were back in the game at that time and felt the vibe and energy.”
— John Sherrard