Coral Gables may not have entered the past couple of seasons as highly-touted as some of the nearby Miami-Dade County perennial boys’ soccer contenders.
But for the second year in a row, a confident group of Cavaliers is headed to the regional semifinals.
Led by a pair of goals and an assist by Michael Hernandez, Coral Gables defeated Coral Reef 3-1 in a Region 4-5A quarterfinal at Tropical Park. The Cavaliers (7-5-5) will host South Dade Saturday in the regional semifinals likely at their home field at 3 p.m.
In what’s been a topsy-turvy postseason among Dade’s large school teams, the Cavaliers continued their run that began as the No. 3 seed in the district. Gables ousted Columbus in the semifinals before falling in penalty kicks in the final to rival Coral Park.
But the Cavaliers, who played without two starters suspended for disciplinary reasons, recovered Tuesday with two first-half goals to take control of the match against the Barracudas (10-6-2).
Hernandez and Julian Grela delivered the scores. Grela’s came first off an assist by Hernandez. Grela later scored off a corner kick.
Coral Reef answered with 25 minutes left in the second half when Miles Whiting angled a corner kick that bent right into the goal untouched to cut Gables’ lead to 2-1.
But on a through ball from Mariano Gonzalez, Hernandez delivered the knockout punch with a goal with 11:32 left.
“We’ve had our knocks here and there, but these kids have kept fighting,” Coral Gables coach Joe Hudak said. “We tell them all the time just put the ball in play near the goal and good things will happen.”
• Region 4-5A quarterfinal — West Broward 3, Miami Beach 2: A beautiful corner kick/header into the top left corner of the net from the combination of Alexander Rodriguez to Nicolas Perez in the game’s 63rd minute snapped a 2-2 tie and proved to be the game-winner for West Broward at Milander Stadium.
It marked the first regional win for the Bobcats (12-7-3), who will now travel to Cypress Bay on Saturday night for a regional semifinal contest and a chance to avenge a 1-0 overtime loss to the Lightning in the district final last week. The win also avenged West Broward’s 2-1 loss to Miami Beach (12-5-3) in the same round a year ago.
“Amazing,” said West Broward coach Rodrigo Frank. “Nicolas is the shortest kid out there on the field so who would’ve ever figured he’s going to be the one to go up and head it in but that’s how soccer is sometimes. A great win for us and we’re looking forward to moving on.”
The first half was a relative scorefest as each team put two goals in. West Broward took the lead in the 13th minute on a Nicolas Guevara goal to go up 1-0.
Then came a wild flurry in which three goals were scored in a five minute span. Beach tied it 1-1 in the 27th minute when Tomas Moffat knocked in a loose ball off a rebound from the keeper, who could not handle an Alan Diaz direct kick from 20 yards out.
The Bobcats went back up 2-1 three minutes later on a perfectly executed corner kick from Santiago Santiestevan that found Guevara who headed it into the top left corner. West Broward’s lead lasted just two minutes though when the Hi-Tides executed their own corner kick, Diaz centering and Christian Sanchez popping it in tying the game at two.
• Region 4-5A quarterfinal — Cypress Bay 2, Miami High 0: Though not as sharp as coach John Ramos would have wanted, Cypress Bay — scoring both its goals in the first half — used its methodical quick-passing possession game to eliminate visiting Miami High.
The Lightning (17-2-4) continues its bid for a second consecutive state title, advancing to Friday’s state round of 16 playoff match against West Broward at Cypress Bay on Saturday.
Cypress Bay will attempt to defeat West Broward for a fourth time; the last meeting was a 1-0 victory in double overtime for the district title last week.
The Stingarees (14-6-3) were left without taking a shot on goal against Cypress Bay goalkeeper Hector Ferndandez in the first half. The Lightning, on the other hand, took nine shots, converting two against Miami goalkeeper Kevin Cabrera for a 2-0 lead at intermission. Cabrera finished with 13 saves for the Stings.
Daniel Gutierrez opened the scoring in the third minute, lofting a bouncing pass from left winger Nicolas Gueravara near the left pole for the one-goal lead.
• Region 4-4A quarterfinal — Hialeah American 1, South Broward 0: A penalty kick goal by Diego Arcon was all the Patriots needed to defeat the Bulldogs and advance to the region semifinal Wednesday night at South Broward.
No goals were scored the first half. Arcon’s goal came in the 62nd minute on a penalty kick given due to a hand-ball penalty in the box.
Each team came into the game without its starting goal keeper. American freshman Javier Mulero started for the Patriots and produced a shutout. The Bulldogs used their top goal scorer, Francisco Patalano, in goal. Late in the game, Patalano changed his uniform and came in to play attacker.
"This is playoff soccer. It’s about surviving and advancing," said American head coach Richie Pelaez. "We scored our goal and they put the pressure on us to keep them out of the goal."
• Region 4-2A quarterfinal — Gulliver 3, LaSalle 2: The Raiders put the pressure on early scoring in the first 10 minutes.
The first and second goals came from forward Mark Verwaay.
LaSalle struck back with Chris Bared scoring on a penalty kick and Mateo Brugo on a wide open goal but it was not enough to overcome the Raiders
The winning goal came from midfielder Brian Ruiz-Unger.
Gulliver will face Ransom Everglades in the semifinal.
COREY W. CAMPBELL
• Region 4-4A quarterfinal — Ft. Lauderdale 3, Westland Hialeah 0: Still a relative newcomer to the regional playoffs, Fort Lauderdale traveled to Milander Stadium and turned in an impressive performance, knocking off Westland Hialeah to advance to Saturday’s regional semifinals against either American or South Broward.
Playing in only their second-ever regional game, the Flying L’s (17-6-1) scored twice in the first half to build a 2-0 halftime lead and coasted from there, marking their first-ever regional victory.
Fort Lauderdale opened the scoring in the game’s eighth minute when Vladimyr Joseph, off a centering pass from Oscar Salsa that Westland keeper Kevin Gonzalez could not control and knocked in the loose ball. In the 24th minute, Gonzalez was called for a foul inside the penalty box and Benson Orelien drilled the ensuing penalty kick into the bottom right corner of the net to make it 2-0. Joseph added his second goal of the night in the 57th minute to complete the scoring.
“A disappointing night but that doesn’t diminish what we did this year,” said Westland coach Greg Solano whose team finished 9-7-6. “We had a lot of seniors and they really blazed the trail for the future success of this program.”
• Region 4-2A quarterfinal — Ransom Everglades 3, Booker T Washington 0: Casey Colucci scored two goals and Ransom Everglades (22-2-3) blew past Booker T. Washington, 3-0, in the Region 4-2A quarterfinals at Robert E. Walker Field Wednesday night.
Colucci’s score from the right side in the 31st minute from Matt Lirman was followed three minutes later by a David Goldstein score assisted by Fran Carrera-Justiz, three minutes later. Both goals showcased the Raiders ball control and precision passing.
In the second half, Ferris Bustmante found Colucci streaking up the right sideline again for the senior captain’s second goal.
The Raiders will play Gulliver on Saturday in the regional semifinals.