Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Woodside’s Daniel Mora, left, absorbs a hip check from San Mateo’s Emilio Morales during a 4-4 tie. The Bearcats scored three goals in the final six minutes to earn the draw Friday.
The Cleveland Browns of the late 1970s and early 1980s were known as the “cardiac kids” for their knack of rallying to win games they had no business winning.
Consider the San Mateo boys’ soccer team the cardiac kids of the Peninsula Athletic League. The Bearcats have had a penchant over the last several years for scoring goals in the waning minutes of games to forge ties and wins.
Friday, the Bearcats were at it again. Trailing 4-2 with mere minutes left in the game, San Mateo got goals from Tyler Mucci in the 80th minute and Chuy Barajas in stoppage time to stun Woodside and finish with a 4-4 tie — a game in which the Bearcats trailed 3-0 midway through the second half.
“We were calling it a win (in the post-game meeting),” said San Mateo coach Chuck Callaghan. “That was a pretty incredible comeback.”
All in all, there were four goals scored in the six-plus minutes of the game, with San Mateo scoring three of them. All four of San Mateo’s goals came in the final 13 minutes and stoppage time of the game.
Woodside appeared to have the game wrapped up when Kevin Amaya was taken down in the San Mateo penalty box, earning a penalty kick which Salvador Herrera converted for a 4-2 lead in the 78th minute.
Instead, the Wildcats conceded two goal in about three minutes.
“We let down our guard in the final few minutes,” said Woodside coach Darrell Ringman. “We had a two-goal lead and then just relaxed.”
Callaghan praised his team for never quitting, especially after giving up the penalty just four minutes after the Bearcats had cut the Woodside lead to 3-2.
“The could have hung their heads (after the penalty kick),” Callaghan said. “They just kept fighting.”
Things might have been different if San Mateo (2-5-1 PAL Bay) had played its starting lineup from the beginning of the game. But Callaghan said he sat five starters for the first half as a disciplinary measure. During those opening 40 minutes, San Mateo could barely string together three passes.
Woodside (6-0-2), on the other hand, did pretty much whatever it wanted. The Wildcats dominated possession and locked the Bearcats into their half of the field for nearly the duration of the half, outshooting San Mateo 15-0, with six of those on frame.
So it seemed inevitable the Wildcats would find the back of the net sooner rather than later. It took a bit of a lucky break, but Woodside did get on the board first in the sixth minute. A ball was crossed into the San Mateo penalty and a shot fired on goal. The ball deflected off a San Mateo defender and began bouncing toward the left corner of the net. The Bearcats goalkeeper tried to track it down, but it hit the goalpost and ricocheted to the front of the goal, where Amaya was waiting and tapped it into the open goal for a 1-0 lead.
The Bearcats finally relieved the pressure on its defense late in the half and used that momentum to finally get something going in the second half.
It got worse before it got better for the Bearcats, however. Woodside doubled its lead just three minutes into the second half when Ben Consoli ran onto a ball near the end line and started working his way back into the San Mateo penalty. Using a number of stutter steps, cutbacks and step overs, Consoli maneuvered around a pair of San Mateo defenders, found some space at the top of the penalty and unleashed a quick, low shot that beat the goalkeeper to the near post to put Woodside up 2-0.
The Wildcats made it 3-0 in the 57th minute when Luis Mancilla battled to keep possession of the ball near the San Mateo penalty box, before finding a sliver of space and unloosing a shot that found the back of the net.
“We gave up some goals it didn’t seem like we should have given up,” Callaghan said.
Minutes later, the Bearcats began their comeback. Alejandro Mendoza, who was one of the starters being punished in the first half, came on in the second and had a major hand in the Bearcats’ rally. They earned a free kick from about 35 yards away from the Woodside goal. Mendoza stepped up and bent a shot around the defensive wall and off the crossbar. The ball all but landed on the foot of Rony Guzman who pounded the ball into the empty net for San Mateo’s first goal in the 67th minute.
Mendoza got the Bearcats’ second goal in the 74th minute, thanks to the tenacious play of left fullback Patrick Hughes, who was pushing up into the offense. Hughes battled for possession of the ball deep in Woodside territory, before finally poking a pass to Mendoza, who made a parallel run at the top of the Woodside penalty. He dribbled into space and unleashed a cross-body shot that found the left corner of the net and San Mateo’s deficit was just 3-2 with six minutes and stoppage time left.
Herrera scored his penalty-kick goal in the 78th minute before San Mateo completed an unthinkable comeback.
Some of the luck Woodside had in the first half swung over to San Mateo’s Mucci in the 80th minute. Mendoza, once again, triggered the play, sending a ball to the left flank that Mucci chased down. With a step on the defender and his momentum taking him away from the goal, Mucci somehow managed to get a shot off across his body and, with the perfect speed and angle, snuck the ball inside the far right post for the Bearcats’ third goal of the game.
Minutes later, Barajas scored the equalizer on simple hustle. There was a scrum in the middle of the Woodside penalty box involving several players from each team. Barajas tried to draw a penalty kick by going down in the box but, when that didn’t work, he bounced right back up and got back into the play. He won a 50-50 about eight yards from goal and, with a defender draped all over him, somehow poked the ball on goal that trickled just inside the right post and under the Woodside goalkeeper for the tying score.
“Every soccer game teaches you a different lesson,” Ringman said. “Soccer is game you play to the final whistle.”