The Arroyo Grande High boys soccer team was on the wrong end of a penalty shot in the opening minutes of a first-round CIF-Southern Section Division 5 playoff match against Nogales on Friday.
But Eagles sophomore goalkeeper Marco Figueroa made a diving grab to his left to preserve the scoreless tie.
The Eagles (16-9-2) stopped additional attacks to keep the shutout intact and went on to win 2-0 at home behind two goals from senior Oscar Muñoz, advancing to Wednesday’s second round.
The match was punctuated by a fierce, physical style initiated by the team from La Puente in the San Gabriel Valley.
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The Nobles’ aggressiveness contributed to numerous yellow cards for both teams and a red card for Nogales goalkeeper Edwin Aparicio in the second half on a collision with an Eagles player near the goal.
“This is pretty much how teams from L.A. play,” Arroyo Grande coach Brad Bowdey said. “That’s why we played a tournament down that way earlier in the season to get ready for games like this one.”
Muñoz, perhaps Arroyo Grande’s fastest player, scored his first goal five minutes into the game after breaking through the last line of defense and chipping the ball over Aparicio’s head.
Muñoz got his second goal 34 minutes into the match by gaining control deep in Nogales’ territory. The ball bounded around and he was able to flick it with his right foot into the net.
Muñoz has 11 goals for the season, leading the Eagles.
“I really wanted to surprise them,” Muñoz said. “After that first penalty shot, I wanted to make sure and take advantage of my opportunities and shoot early. With this being my senior season, I wanted to go out the right way. I wanted to leave it all on the field.”
Nogales tried to pack the midfield and make long passes in an attempt to get breakaway goals.
Bowdey credited his defense for thwarting those attacks and praised Figueroa, who made a spectacular save in the second half as well to preserve the shutout on a point-blank Nogales shot that he reached up for and batted away.
“Marco really set the tone for us with that first save,” Bowdey said. “He’s just a sophomore, and he made some very good plays out there today to keep us in front.”
For much of the game, Arroyo Grande kept the pressure on the Nobles and had more possession time in the visiting team’s territory.
In the 46th minute, Aparicio collided with Eagles forward Juan Jazo on a breakaway outside the penalty box and got called for a red card, forcing Nogales to play a man down for most of the second half.
That gave the Eagles several cracks at goals that just missed, including a couple of additional chances for Muñoz and some for forward Joshua Wilkins that sailed just off the mark.
With emotions running high at the end of the game, Muñoz and a Nogales player had to be separated after a face-to-face encounter that led to several players from both teams gathering to face off.
But the referees stopped the skirmish before things got out of hand and Muñoz and a Nogales player were given yellow cards.
“They were frustrated,” Muñoz said. “It’s not easy to lose. That’s what was going on.”