On two separate occasions Thursday, the boys’ soccer team at Palm Springs High School inched a little closer to overthrowing La Quinta atop the Desert Valley League standings.
With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, a win in the latest head-to-head matchup between the two desert rivals would give the Indians a one-point advantage down the stretch — a step closer to earning consecutive league titles.
The first instance came with under 10 minutes to play in regulation, when Palm Springs broke a scoreless tie by scoring the first goal of the game. But the lead lasted a mere 90 seconds, as La Quinta answered to send the game to overtime. The Indians again took a lead in the first overtime, only to again see La Quinta tie it with a goal in the second overtime.
The two teams ultimately finished tied 2-2 providing no movement at the top of the league standings. With Palm Desert tying Indio, the top three teams in the DVL will remain in the same order — for now.
“We control our own destiny,” La Quinta coach Gary Nadler said. “If we win out, it doesn’t matter what anyone else does.”
Giovanni Vallejo found the back of the net first for Palm Springs, firing the ball past La Quinta goalie Aaron Martinez off a 1-on-2 break. Vallejo took his initial shot, which was blocked by a defender, then drilled the rebound into the goal as Martinez approached. Arath Gonzalez assisted on the play.
After such a robust defensive effort on both sides, that appeared to be the game-winning goal. But La Quinta didn’t think so.
“Our team, we never let down,” Ocampo said. “We never quit, we never stopped. It was all effort.”
On the other end just moments later, Daniel Alexander collided with Indians goalkeeper Brian Puentes, initiating a penalty kick. After being issued a yellow card, Puentes was forced out of the game for the kick, which Alexander converted.
Into the first overtime period, Palm Springs (8-7-5, 5-1-2 DVL) again seized control. Off a pass from Vallejo, Alberto “Fresh” Duran found the back of the net six minutes in. Palm Springs just had to keep La Quinta (12-2-5, 6-2-1) scoreless for 14 minutes to walk away with the win.
But the Indians couldn’t keep La Quinta’s sense of urgency from turning into another goal. On a free kick, captain Jason Ocampo went low with his kick while a blockade of five defenders jumped. The ball danced on the ground on an angle that made it difficult for Puentes to anticipate.
“We had the win in regulation and La Quinta came back and took that away from us,” Palm Springs coach Jimmy Jordan said. “Then we had the game-winner in overtime and La Quinta kept fighting. Our guys played great, but we’re still young and maturing.”
The match lived up to its billing in more ways than in the outcome. More than 100 fans gather around the edges of the field, adding to the already intense environment.
With the main field at Palm Springs being resurfaced, the Indians have played on an adjacent side field, where spectators can stand right next to the action and an earshot from game officials. Security at the field was tight, and some boisterous fans were ejected throughout the night.
La Quinta is approaching the rest of the season as if there’s still work to be done.
“If we lose a game, they’re going to jump us,” Nadler said of Palm Springs. “That’s the reality, and they know it.”