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San Luis gives Kofa first home loss in three years
The walls of Irv Pallack Field have stood strong for a long time but were finally knocked down as San Luis beat Kofa 2-0 Wednesday night, delivering the Kings their first home loss in over three years.
Both teams were undefeated entering the match and San Luis coach Ian McDougall knew luck would have to be on his team's side to get a win.
“I told my kids we're not going to come out and earn a win, we're going to come out and sneak a win, because that's how you win at Kofa,” McDougall said. “Calls have to go your way, balls have to bounce your way, because they are so tough here. I expected exactly what we got as a game.”
McDougall got that call in the second half on a controversial Kofa handball in the penalty box that resulted in San Luis senior striker Leo Moreno burying a penalty kick.
“Honestly as a coach, from where I was standing it looked like it touched his hand,” McDougall said. “But I've watched thousands of games of soccer in my life and I'll tell you, some referees won't call that, some will. Call it what you want, fate, destiny, but we got the call and Kofa didn't. Much to their chagrin it had to be in our favor.”
The call was made by the sideline referee and not the center referee who was much closer to the play.
“A ball gets blasted in the box, hits a player in the chest and rolls off his shoulder, and the referee 35 yards away calls it,” said Kofa coach Jamie Nicewander. “The center ref didn't call the PK, the guy on the other side past five players calls it. There's a problem with that.”
San Luis' second goal was an own goal that came off a free kick that deflected off a Kofa defender into their own net.
“We haven't lost here in a long time, but ultimately we're concerned about the whole season, not just one game,” Nicewander said. “Our focus is bigger than one game. I said that coming into the game, and I'll say it again. It's just unfortunate that controversial things like that would change the flow of the game dramatically for us.”
Nicewander said Kofa was fouled 19 times while only fouling San Luis four times. He added that 10 of San Luis' fouls came against Kofa center midfielder Jesus Felix.
“That's a massive difference,” Nicewander said. “These guys all play in local leagues, they know who the key player is. And that's OK, they can mark the player, but I'm lost as to how those players aren't protected on the field.”
McDougall denied that his team marked any particular player.
“We came out and executed our game plan, especially in that second half,” McDougall said. “Kofa was really attacking some of our weak points in the first half and I saw that and we really focused on tightening up those areas of the game. In the second half we didn't give up many dangerous plays. My guys adapted well mentally, and one of the things we got the benefit today was we had 80 minutes of mental toughness. That's the first time all season we've had that. We've had moments of brilliance, moments of shine, but this was the first time we were going to tighten the buckle, we're going to go out and we're going to play 80 minutes of grind it out football.”
The next match between the two teams is Jan. 10 in San Luis, which will have large post season implications. Because both teams have a weak schedule, any more than two losses could mean missing out on the state playoffs, making this win that much sweeter for San Luis.
“Going into that break I know that the ball's in our court,” McDougall said. “I know if we play our game, even if we slip up to Kofa at home, we're looking at an 11-2, or a 12-1 season.”