Playing in an ‘A’ League provided both a test and a blessing for the North Monterey County boys soccer team.
After a five-match losing streak in Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division play, the Condors battled to get back into the Central Coast Section playoffs. By closing the regular season at 3-0-2, North County not only got back into the playoffs, but earned home-field advantage for a second straight year.
With everything lining up for them, the Condors made the most of their situation by toppling Greenfield 4-1 in a CCS Division III opening-round match on a breezy Wednesday afternoon at North Monterey County High.
“We wanted to get back into the playoffs,” North Monterey County Coach Sergio Marquez said. “That was our goal. Finishing fifth in that league gave us enough points, and now we’re trying to make another run to the finals.”
The Condors, the No. 6 seed, scored three second-half goals to move past the No. 11 Bruins, who tied for second out of the Mission Trail Athletic League.
With the windy conditions, North County chose to go against the wind in the first half and with the win in the second half. It was a strategic move, and one that made a difference.
“In the first half we competed with the wind, and I don’t think we were playing to our potential,” Marquez said.
The score was 1-1 at halftime with Adolfo Castellanos scoring for the Condors in the third minute of the match. Despite the wind and not playing with the same intensity they had at the end of season, North County still out-shot Greenfield 11-3 in the first half.
Greenfield was able to dodge several bullets and pulled even with the Condors in the 32nd minute. Alfonso Rubio scored the tying goal after receiving a ball from Javier Garcia just in front of the penalty area and fired in a low shot.
The goal sparked the Bruins who played evenly with the Condors for the next 20 minutes.
“It’s not a surprise they played us hard,” Marquez said. “Everyone that gets into CCS is deserving and they’re going to fight.”
The match broke the Condors’ way in the 58th minute when Gerardo Ramirez scored. His goal came less than minute after his header attempt was saved by Greenfield goalkeeper Jose Luis Pacheco. Pacheco finished with nine saves.
“I think the second goal broke them,” Marquez said. “Their heads went down, and for us it got us rolling.”
North County scored again in the 67th minute on a rebound by Angel Ortiz. The play started on a corner kick by Ramon Perez that Ramon Medina headed off the crossbar which then settled to the foot of Ortiz who punched it in.
Closing the scoring was Angel Flores in the 77th minute. Flores, Castellanos and Chris Serratos all had assists and goalkeeper Jesus Tostado made four saves.
“I know we didn’t play to our full potential today, and we’ll need to on Saturday,” Marquez said. The Condors face No. 3 Harbor (12-5-3), champions of the Santa Cruz County Athletic League, at a time and site to be determined.
The Condors defeated the Pirates 4-1 in an Oak Grove Gold Cup tournament earlier this season at Soquel.