Los Lunas doomed by late Capital goals

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Things went as planned through 60 minutes of the No. 4 Los Lunas soccer team’s 80-minute match against No. 5 Santa Fe Capital Thursday morning at the APS Soccer Complex.

All it took was a pair of unplanned bounces of the ball for the Jaguars to score a pair of second-half goals to shock the Tigers with a 3-2 loss that knocked LLHS out of the Class 4A Boys State Tournament.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: LOS LUNAS DEFENDER Mario Garcia (11) goes for a ball against Capital’s Jason Alarcon during the Tigers’ match in the Class 4A Boys Soccer Tournament in Albuquerque on Thursday, Nov. 7.

“We wanted to shut them down and not give them an opportunity in the middle,” said LLHS coach Daniel Martinez. “Today was a little more defensive because of their firepower. They’re very adamant about counterattacking when you attack them so that’s why we came out more defensively.”

The approach appeared to be working for Los Lunas for three-fourths of the match. Up 2-1 off a pair of first-half goals from junior Alejandro Garcia and seemingly deadlocked in an even struggle at midfield, the Tigers seemed poised to collect the win.

But Capital (14-6) again began sending their once dormant attack forward. Then in the 61st minute, a through ball bounced off LLHS goalkeeper Dylan Romero and over the end line to give the Jaguars a corner kick, which they smartly headed in to tie the match at 2-2.

“I was trying to shield the ball and it slid off my chest and through my legs,” explained Romero after the game. “On the corner, (their player) came from the back all alone and scored.”

Capital continued to intensify its attack, sending more players forward and Romero was again victimized with just five minutes left in the match when Capital’s Jason Alarcon beat him to a loose ball at the top of the box and chipped it in for the game-winner.

“Their midfield is strong and it was back and forth,” said disappointed sophomore midfielder/forward Chris Lovato after the game. The game never stopped. We lost our mental side of the game.”

Wary of the powerful Jaguars’ attack, Los Lunas (17-4) came out with a more defensive mentality than usual. Capital drew first blood with a blistering goal off a throw-in 12 minutes into the match.

The Jaguars continued to control pace and possession in the first half and the Tigers adjusted to the smaller, shorter field and hard bounces off the artificial turf.

But Los Lunas notched the tying goal on a blistering shot from the left side by Garcia in the 18th minute. Two minutes later, Lovato, the state’s leading scorer who was tightly marked for much of the game, headed the ball backwards, toward a streaking Garcia, who slotted his shot into the net to give a 2-1 advantage as they headed to halftime.

“I started up top and couldn’t do much because there would be multiple people on me,” said Lovato. “So I dropped to the middle and started fighting for headers and distributing the ball and it paid off. They weren’t expecting Alejandro to get behind them like he did. They weren’t even marking him.”

The Tigers lose just two seniors, defender Mario Garcia and midfielder Aaron Escarcega, from this year’s squad and both Lovato and Garcia, who finished the season with 41 and 34 goals, respectively, should return to the squad.

“We have a lot coming back,” We got the majority of this team coming back and a lot of youth — eighth-graders and freshmen — who are talented. So the future looks bright.”