Comets collapse against Yuba in conference opener

49ers score stoppage time goal, men's soccer team fall to bottom of standings, .500 winning percentage

By Lorenzo Morotti, Associate Editor

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Its only goal, scored in stoppage time, was not enough for the men’s soccer team to win its Bay Valley Conference opener after Yuba College scored a brace at minutes four and 89 on Tuesday at the Soccer Field.

“Today was not our day,” Comet midfielder Jorge Lopez said. “We had our own midfielder accidentally block a clear goal that would have made it a 1-1 game, instead of 2-0, and we missed a (penalty kick).”

Contra Costa College (4-4-1 overall, 0-1-0 in the Bay Valley Conference) produced five shots on goal to the seven generated by the 49ers (5-4 overall, 1-0-0 in the BVC) at the end of a 2-1 battle without its leading goal scorer Pedro Rodriguez (eight goals for the season) who was unable to play due to an injury.

After Tuesday’s loss, the Comets dropped their winning percentage down to an even .500, and replaced their three-game win streak with a respective number of losses in a row.

The Comets’ best chance to tie the game was at minute 67 when wing back Ben Reiter dribbled past three 49er defenders as he cut across the face of the goal from the right attacking wing and into the edge of the penalty area, but was fouled and awarded a penalty kick.

Reiter, however, rocketed the ball over the crossbar from the penalty spot.

“I tried to place it in the top corner, (but) it just didn’t work out,” he said. “I felt awful, but I used (the missed PK) as motivation to try to get us back in the game.”

Yuba led by a single goal throughout the game until the final two minutes of the game when its freshman striker Thomas Mehler scored during a quick counter attack generated off a Comet’s on-target headed attempt on goal that deflected off a teammate at the goal line.

Comet coach Nikki Ferguson said he pushed players up the field to crowd the penalty area when the team’s late attacking pressure awarded it a corner kick with less than two minutes remaining — its sixth out of nine total by the end of the game.

“We wanted to get more players forward to create an opportunity to score out of desperation,” Ferguson said. “We had two direct chances on goal. The last one bounced off our own player.”

Comet defensive full back Davis Okonkwo rose above the defense to connect with the ball swung into the near post of the goal from the right corner flag, but it deflected off his teammate instead of 49er goalkeeper Colby Campbell.

This missed Comet chance initiated Yuba’s pivotal counter attack at 89 minutes.

49er Ivan Lopez trapped the deflected ball in his own defensive 18-yard line and delivered a long aerial pass to Mehler who had sprinted into space behind two defenders to tap the ball in between goalkeeper Eduardo Escamilla’s legs with less than two minutes left to play, including stoppage time.

“We were trying to get a goal. We were down 1-0 during the last couple of minutes and had the defense push up past half field,” Reiter said. “But they countered with a lob, the ball bounced over our defenders and (Mehler) was off to the races.”

Escamilla tallied 10 saves by the end of the match, two of which saw him smothering prior one-on-one situations with Mehler at 39 and 51 minutes respectively, until he was beaten by a cheeky nutmeg.

“During (the 49ers’) last play (Mehler) put the ball in between my legs,” Escamilla said. “I tried to cover my angles while rushing out, but I left my legs open. I should have been sharper and (the team was) unlucky because of it — but that nutmeg hurt.”

CCC stands at the bottom of its conference standings, tied with Folsom Lake College (2-7 overall), while Mendocino College (6-2-1 overall) and Yuba will go into their next match in first place with three points.

“It felt like we were destined to lose prior to kickoff,” Ferguson said. “The pregame warm up reflected how we played.”

The Comets will start a set of conference road games against rivals Napa Valley College (5-1-1 overall) on Friday while Mendocino and the 49ers will have to play for the top position in the BVC standings.

Leading Comet goal scorer Rodriguez watched Friday’s frantic transitional play from the bench while icing his foot, which he said he injured while trying to cut and then accelerate on an uneven patch of the Soccer Field less than 10 minutes into the game against Lake Tahoe College last week.

Rodriguez not only led the team in goals, but was in second place statewide in most goals scored during non-conference play with eight goals in eight games.

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