La Quinta’s bid to finish the season as unbeaten Desert Valley League champions came to an end Monday night as the Blackhawks fell, 1-0 to arch-rivals Palm Desert.
The Blackhawks (13-1-3, 9-1 in DVL), dominated the game, possession, and shots on goal, but either stymied themselves in scoring position, or were kept out by a man of the match performance by the Aztecs’ senior goalkeeper Aaron Gipson.
While the win kept the Blackhawks from going through the DVL unbeaten, it also gave the Aztecs(7-9-3, 5-3-2) a chance to climb all the way to third in the standings with wins in their final two matches.
“We knew it was going to be a challenge, but the boys responded,” said Palm Desert coach Scott McKee. “We’re just trying to scratch and claw and make some noise here in these last few games.”
For all its possession, flair, and attempts on goal – 14 in all – the Blackhawks had nothing to show at halftime for their comprehensive dominance. La Quinta came out flying from the opening whistle, getting off three shot attempts in the first three minutes.
But the Blackhawks didn’t force a save from Gipson until the ninth minute, when the ball made its way across the entirety of the penalty area to sophomore midfielder Damian Vasquez, who could only fire directly into the keeper’s gloves. It was the first of 21 saves Gipson would make in the match.
La Quinta continued its territorial dominance throughout the half, limiting the Aztecs to sporadic counterattacks, two of which ended in shots by junior forward Jhonatan Urbina. One was blocked by La Quinta senior midfielder Christian Herrera just inside the penalty area in the 12th minute, and the second forced a stretching save by junior goalkeeper Logan Prescott in the 19th.
La Quinta’s do-it-all man Lucas Rosales spearheaded the Blackhawks dominance all night, with spice contributed by senior midfielder Anthony Ruiz and senior forward Andrassy Teran. Rosales slipped behind the Aztec defense in the 24th minute, collected a nifty pass from Teran, and just shot past the right post. The Blackhawks kept the pressure up, and nearly took the lead during a goalmouth scramble in the 29th minute before the Aztecs defense could clear in desperation.
Urbina figured again early in the second half for the Aztecs, who responded to their halftime team talk by taking hold of the first 10 minutes of the second half. They came as close as either team to taking the lad in the 46th minute when Urbina came up with the ball deep in the Blackhawks penalty area and snapped a shot off the left post which spun across the face of the goal and over the goal line just beyond the right post.
The shot off the post seemed to stir La Quinta back into gear, and they generated eight chances over the next 10 minutes. with Rosales figuring in six of the eight thrusts. Again, however, the crucial final touch eluded the Blackhawks, and it was the Aztecs who wound up with the better chance to score during the stretch when Urbina was fouled by sophomore defender Cesar Rodriguez at the top of the penalty area.
Palm Desert sophomore midfielder Christian Corrales took the ensuing free kick, but it sailed over the bar. However, he made up for the miss just two minutes later with a sizzling cross that was smacked into the back of the net by junior forward Enrico Meghnagi just two minutes later, giving the Aztecs the lead in the 58th minute.
Again, La Quinta answered Palm Desert’s offensive success with a surge of their own, buzzing the Aztecs penalty area time and again without results. Teran was stuffed by Gipson with 14 minutes to play after taking a pass from Ruiz on the break, and sophomore defender Liam Manzano got behind the Aztec back line off a throw in with six minutes to play, only to run into a perfectly-positioned Gipson in the penalty area.
The Blackhawks kept coming, and Gipson kept coming up big. With four minutes left, Teran turned a ball into the path of Ruiz who was stoned by onrushing Gipson, and a La Quinta penalty shout was waved off by the referee with three minutes left. The Blackhawks last best chance to equalize came and when when sophomore midfielder Edward Quintero headed a corner kick off the bar in the 79th minute.
“That’s soccer,” said La Quinta coach Gary Nadler. “You tip your hat to them. He (Gipson) made a lot of great saves, and we sort of turned it up there in the last 20 minutes. But we know we’ve got to bring the intensity for 80 minutes.”
MAN OF THE MATCH: Aaron Gipson, senior goalkeeper, Palm Desert: Gipson was on track for a man of the match performance before the final 10 minutes of the match, when he made seven of his 21 saves, four from inside the six-yard box. He was a commanding presence in the penalty area, and also provided several booming clearances.
THE SUPPORT: Christian Corrales, sophomore midfielder, Palm Desert: After a relatively quiet first half, Corrales made his mark on the second half by collecting and controlling the ball in the La Quinta half, and he supplied the cross that resulted in the winning goal. As the match neared it’s conclusion and the Aztecs looked to hold on, he tracked back to make several key defensive stops and clearances.
NOTABLE: Despite the intensity of the match and the rivalry, the game was played in good spirits; only one yellow card was issued, and it was given to Corrales for excessive delay during a throw-in late in the game….La Quinta junior goalkeeper Logan Prescott had little to do in the first half, but he ended the night with 11 saves…Palm Desert coach Scott McKee said his team played with the pride that made it DVL champions last season. “We didn’t want anyone going through this league unscathed,” he said.