Ulises Lopez’s goal gives Lindsay a shot at adding their seventh straight ESL title
By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN
LINDSAY – Despite the records, Lindsay head coach Tony Godoy entered the match acknowledging that his team’s streak of six East Sequoia League (ESL) titles was at stake at their Wednesday, Jan. 31, rematch against the Spartans. The Cardinals sat one game back of Strathmore, and in true rivalry fashion, the difference was one goal.
Lindsay’s Marcos Ceballos struck a set piece from 40 yards away into the Strathmore penalty box. Oscar Lira, who attempted to head the ball toward the goal, jumped in the air to redirect it. A collision in mid-air caused the ball to go wide. It went directly to Ulises Lopez, who was able to make better contact with a header and score the game’s winning goal 4-3.
The win brings Lindsay (19-2-2, 7-1) into a tie for first place with Strathmore (11-8-1, 7-1). While the streak is safe to continue, it may have a different ring to it this year.
“It will be great that we have the shot to win seven in a row, but ‘co-league champions’ does not sound the same to me,” Godoy said. “We had the game under control the entire time.”
One aspect Godoy likes about league competition is that teams play each other twice. It leaves the second game open to adjustments, which both sides made in this contest.
Lopez was the main adjustment for the Cardinals. Originally a right defender, Lopez was moved to mid-field to utilize his speed. In the games leading up to the rematch, Lopez scored a goal in three straight contests. It proved to be the better of the adjustments made for the game.
Strathmore’s adjustment, however, seemed to backfire. In an attempt to shutdown Lindsay’s Marcos Ceballos, Strathmore marked Jose Pena on him. While the move limited Ceballos to only one goal, it also opened up other attackers to scoring opportunities.
Tied 1-1 at halftime, Lindsay kept the offensive pressure on in the second half, leading to goals by Ismael Ferreira and Oscar Lira which built their lead to 3-1. In an effort to send a statement, Godoy kept attacking. But the strategy backfired.
On two separate attacks, the Spartans found open space in the Cardinals’ defense, and tied up the game. Alejandro Bermudez sent a shot from the center of the field 45 yards into the net. The shot traveled so fast that the Cardinal keeper did not have a chance to react. A few minutes later, Osvaldo Ibarra added the tying goal from 30 yards out.
“I am actually surprised that Lindsay did not have to buy new nets after those goals,” Strathmore head coach Jimmy Madrigal said.
As time ticked off the clock, Godoy and his Cardinals never once believed that the game was out of their hands. Even if the game had gone into overtime, Lindsay’s offense was dictating the pace.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams that we would lose that game,” Godoy said. “Instead, I can’t believe that we are only going to beat them by one.”
There are still two games left to be played by both teams. It is safe to say that no lead is safe in this season’s ESL.
The Cardinals shutout the Granite Hills Grizzlies on Monday night, Feb. 5, by a score of 5-0.
The Spartans also won by a wide margin, 5-1, over the Sierra Pacific Golden Bears on Monday.
Lindsay will finish with the Woodlake Tigers at home tonight. Strathmore will have to travel to play against the Corcoran Panthers tonight. Both games are slated to begin at 6 p.m.