The Columbus and American High boys’ soccer teams are both dealing with injuries and fatigue.
Neither let it slow down their bids for a GMAC championship Tuesday night.
Columbus, which played its fifth match in a one-week span, defeated Dr. Krop 1-0 on senior Tyler Zarranz’s goal in the ninth minute of a GMAC semifinal at Milander Park.
The Explorers (16-3-3) will vie for their first GMAC championship Thursday night when they take on American in the tournament final at 7 p.m. at Milander.
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American (15-1-1) defeated Jackson in the earlier semifinal Tuesday, 2-1.
The hero in that game, junior Camilo Rojas, has dealt with numerous injuries during his career.
Yet when he’s been in the lineup for American, he has found a way to deliver clutch plays like the one he made Tuesday when he fired a near-40-yard kick into the back of the net in the 70th minute for what proved to be the match-winning goal.
American coach Richie Pelaez said Rojas has dealt with injuries to his back and hamstring this season but has played most of the season following a sophomore year in which he missed several games due to a broken wrist. Rojas also missed games his freshman season with an ankle injury.
“The kid has it as far as talent, it’s just keeping him on the field,” Pelaez said. “I’m always like, ‘Give me what you can,’ and he’s pulled it through. He knows his limits, but he steps up for this team.”
Rojas’ goal broke a 1-1 tie against Jackson (13-4-4), which upset Reagan in Monday’s quarterfinals. Sophomore Matias Pastore scored the first goal for American off an assist by Neiver Baena.
Zarranz, who also scored a goal for Columbus in Monday’s quarterfinal win over Varela, delivered early Tuesday. Behind a solid defensive effort in the second half anchored by goalkeeper Steven Milian, Columbus held off the Lightning. Senior Eddy Diaz, a pivotal part of the Explorers’ title run last season, had an assist.
Columbus, the defending Class 5A state champions, appears to be playing its best soccer in recent weeks.
“We’re grinding through some injuries and fatigue right now,” Columbus coach Michael Stewart said. “We’re starting to realize we have to gel as a team.’’