April 14, 2024

Moments away from its season ending, El Camino Real was saved Friday when Anthony Villa scored on a header off a corner kick with less than 30 seconds left in regulation in a City Section Division I boys’ soccer quarterfinal against Palisades.

Villa produced more magic in overtime, scoring on a low shot to the corner from 12 yards after a series of one-touch passes in the penalty area to give the visiting Royals a 2-1 victory. It was the second straight season the teams met in the playoffs. The Royals prevailed in a shootout in the semifinals last winter after neither team scored in regulation or overtime.

“We work on corner kicks all the time in practice and we actually get a lot of our goals on set pieces,” Villa said of his equalizer. “I glanced at the keeper and saw him next to the post so I knew if the ball came to me he wouldn’t be able to reach it.”

El Camino Real dominated the first 40 minutes, earning seven corner kicks and narrowly missing several scoring chances at close range. However, the Dolphins regrouped at intermission and Hudson Weinberger gave the home team a 1-0 lead when he angled in a shot from the right side off the far post five minutes into the second half.

“I missed a couple chances in regulation so I told my teammates before overtime that I’m going to make up for it and finish it with two,” Villa said. ”In overtime I asked Eric [Cabadas] for the ball and he gave it to me right where I like it.”

ECR lost to Birmingham in the finals last season and is one win away from a return trip.

A hard shot by Royals forward Jonathan Rabinovitch caromed off the cross bar and then the goal post but stayed out. Ten minutes later, a goal on a header was waived off because of a foul in the box. Fabian Garcia sailed a shot high on a free kick from 35 yards out with five minutes left and it looked as if ECR had run out of chances.

“Our coach tells us to never give up,” Villa said.

The fifth-seeded Royals (17-4-1) face top-seeded Granada Hills (16-2-6) in the semifinals Tuesday at 3 p.m.. The Highlanders, who edged ninth-seeded Garfield 1-0 Thursday, were first in the West Valley League. ECR was third. However, the Royals are confident they can pull off the upset.

“To us it doesn’t matter who we play, seeding is just a number,” added Villa, who tallied his 12th and 13th goals. “We lost to them 3-1 and 1-0, but we’re gonna prove that we want it more.”

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