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Prep boys soccer: One final save

Manzo’s PK save secures first-round win for West Ranch

Posted: February 16, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 16, 2013 2:00 a.m.
 

It was only fitting.

After the West Ranch Wildcats boys soccer team played to a scoreless draw with the visiting North Torrance Saxons that sent their CIF-Southern Section Division IV playoff game to penalty kicks, goalkeeper Alex Manzo once again came through in the clutch.

Manzo’s diving save to his left of Keiichi Taira’s penalty kick clinched the Wildcats’ 0-0 (2-1 penalty kicks) victory.

“I knew we were up in the last shot. I was thinking of saving it, getting in my happy place,” Manzo said. “I saved it and we’re moving on.”

It was one of 10 saves Manzo made in the game, including the final four North penalty kicks.

The Saxons (10-11-2 overall) nearly kept the game from getting to penalty shots, though, when Matthew Aldama sent a cross to Jorge Orozco on the right edge of the box three minutes into the first extra period.

Orozco found Kevin Woo, who took a shot from point-blank range that had nearly everyone thinking the game was about to end.

Everyone but Manzo.

“There’s a second of fear, but it doesn’t last that long,” he said. “I did whatever I could to keep us in the game.”

That fact wasn’t lost on North Torrance head coach Diego Turoldo.

“He came up big. He had some big saves,” Turoldo said. “That was another reaction save. That kid came up big for his team today.”

Throughout regulation and two 10-minute golden goal (sudden death) periods, West Ranch looked out of sorts.

The Wildcats (16-5-3) struggled to connect on passes and aggressively move into the attacking zone.

“If there was a game we deserved to lose, it was that one,” said West Ranch head coach Fred McGinn. “You get the win in the end, but it wasn’t a good performance on our part.”

The Saxons were the opposite, particularly in the second half as they sacrificed on the backline to pushed extra men forward.

North put seven shots on net, including a strike from Anthony Diaz inside the box that was again pushed back by Manzo.

“We’ve been practicing high pressure,” Turoldo said. “We did not want it to go to penalty kicks. I pulled a defender off and added an extra defender.”

Neither team could break through, though, sending it to penalty kicks.

“We practiced penalty kicks (Thursday),” McGinn said. “And I never practice penalty kicks.”

The Saxons had practiced penalty kicks, as well, but the results weren’t as positive.

In an odd move, North lined up Aldama at keeper for the penalty kicks after not playing the position throughout the game.

“He feels better on penalty kicks and (West Ranch) wouldn’t know his weakness. He’s a player,” Turoldo said.

But Turoldo allowed goals on the Wildcats’ first two shots, on goals by Justice Rodrigues and Jake Martinez, before missing the second shot for North.

That put the Saxons behind 2-1 through two rounds.

After misses by both teams in the third and fourth rounds, Taira stepped to the line in the fifth.

“We kept through it the whole game,” Manzo said. “We kept playing hard and we pulled it out.”

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