By Jeremy Balan
The win streak is still alive, but it wasn’t pretty and wasn’t short on controversy.
Lowell High School’s boys soccer team extended its Academic Athletic Association win streak to 27, despite being outplayed by visiting Lincoln for almost all of its 2-0 win on Thursday.
The Mustangs (8-1) outshot Lowell 8-1 and dominated possession and scoring opportunities, but the Cardinals (9-0) scored two goals on penalty kicks from senior Jesus Sanchez.
Both penalties were under intense scrutiny from the Lincoln players, coaches and fans.
“We put ourselves into positions that we didn’t want to be in,” said Lincoln head coach Kenyatta Scott. “It’s a game of angles. That’s all I can say.”
The first penalty came in the 32nd minute, when Lowell senior forward Cameron BaSaing snuck behind the Lincoln back line on a long pass from fellow senior Max Pollard. Lincoln senior defender Breddyn Edduard Martinez slid in for a tackle from behind, but appeared to get the ball first before sending BaSaing into a somersault.
The second penalty came on a corner kick in the 55th minute, when Lowell’s Avery Fisher tried to connect with Pollard, but Lincoln midfielder Herman Felipe Herrera made contact with Pollard in the air, causing him to crash to the field.
Sanchez calmly and accurately deposited both penalty kicks into the right corner of the net.
“I was about 70 yards from the first one, so I couldn’t really see it, but the second one I didn’t really think [should have been a penalty],” said Lowell head coach Marcos Estebez. “I was standing right here and it was close, but knowing how the game was going, that’s not a play I would make.”
The way the game was going was physical and constantly contentious. Eight yellow cards were issued (five to Lowell, three to Lincoln), a red card was assessed to Lincoln and play was frequently stopped for fouls.
The rough play and behavior of many in attendance marred a battle between undefeated teams in a championship atmosphere.
“We were embarrassed by the conduct of our players today. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but I’m just speaking for our side.” Estebez said. “We need to be respectful of the fact that the referee is a human being on the field, trying to control a game that is barely in control. To continue to make questionable plays is just stupid, and to think you’re not going to get called for them is just ignorant.”
In a possible preview of the AAA title game, featuring a rivalry from the Sunset district, Scott knew the game would be physical.
“There are certain cards that are unacceptable, but this game was always going to be a physical game and we accepted that,” Scott said. “We knew that going in.”
The Mustangs pressured the Cardinals’ defense throughout, but it was Lowell goalkeeper Eduardo Camacho that kept the slate clean with eight saves, despite some moments of drama venturing away from the net.
“Sometimes his GPS needs to be re-calibrated, but he was throwing his body in harm’s way,” Estebez said. “Regardless of the angles, he deserves credit for the bravery it takes to do that.”
Camacho also got some help from Lowell defender Lucas Decena, who cleared a ball away on the goal line after Camacho was caught out of position in the 58th minute.
“We talk about being champions and capitalizing on chances,” Scott said. “The kids and the fans were wound up in the emotions of the game, but you have to produce. We had ample opportunities and we didn’t capitalize on them.”
Both teams sit comfortably atop their respective divisions, but because they are in separate divisions, the game Thursday will be their only regular-season meeting, so the Mustangs are hopeful to get another shot.
“A win would make us feel good, but a loss we can use as fuel,” Scott said. “We’d like to see them again, but I don’t like to make predictions like that, because there are so many factors. On any given day a team can be beat.”