It took being a man down for the Santa Monica boys soccer team to wake up.
The Vikings seemed to play with more purpose after the ejection of senior Giancarlo Canas, who received a red card midway through the second half, ramping up their energy and even forcing overtime.
But they struggled to stave off El Segundo late in the extra period, falling 2-1 at home Wednesday afternoon to reach the midpoint of the regular season.
“There were moments where we played very well and dictated the tempo of the game, and I don’t think it was a fair result given the entirety of the game,” coach Corey Prost said. “We didn’t execute on a couple set pieces defensively the way we needed to, but I’m happy with the way we battled and fought.”
Samohi (4-9-1, 2-3 in the Ocean League) appeared to have turned a proverbial corner, rebounding from a five-game skid ‚Äî which started with another 2-1 loss to El Segundo in tournament play Dec. 19 ‚Äî with back-to-back victories against Culver City and Beverly Hills.
But the Vikings fell below .500 in their conference standings entering Friday evening’s road game against Hawthorne, unable to keep El Segundo away from the net in crunch time.
In the 95th minute, the Eagles took advantage of a defensive error and punched in the golden goal. Samohi players froze in disbelief.
“Somebody got free, they flicked it into the box and we didn’t clear it on the initial header,” Prost said. “And they hit the second ball.”
El Segundo’s goal ended a chippy affair that was dotted with physical play, referee whistles and warning cards.
About three minutes after Canas was sent out in the 60th, Eagles senior Keith Mowers drew a yellow card for fouling Vikings defender Roberto Lopez.
El Segundo capitalized on its one-man edge in the 66th minute when Jake Grundman put away a tipped throw-in, but Samohi didn’t panic.
Moments later, senior Edwin Hernandez tied the match with a thrilling finish that seemed to galvanize his teammates.
“It was a great play,” Prost said. “Edwin’s really been one of those guys who has stepped up and picked up his play.”
The Vikings’ momentum translated into stingy defense and decisive ball movement in the final 13 minutes of regulation and extended into the two overtime stanzas.
They passed with more precision and communicated more effectively, holding steadily even as goalkeeper Chris Garcia left the game momentarily following a collision in the 70th.
“Being a man down really changes the complexion of the game,” Prost said. “We played very well and defended well during that stretch. But it takes its toll as time goes on.”
Added junior Christian Palomares: “We had to work for each other, and we didn’t do that the first half. It took us a man down to figure that out.”
Palomares, who has scored a team-high four goals this season, earned Samohi a corner kick with a hustle play in the 93rd minute. Lopez got his head on the ensuing cross but couldn’t direct it towards the goal.
Two minutes later, El Segundo’s Shawn Manouchehry notched the game-winner.
“We can do better,” Palomares said. “We should’ve won it. Hopefully, we’ll get them at their place.”
The rematch, which doubles as the Vikings’ league finale, is slated for Feb. 12.
Contact Jeff Goodman by phone at 310-573-8351, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter.