Miami Beach boys soccer coach Edgar Botto was soaking wet and freezing on Thursday night – and he didn’t mind one darn bit.
That’s because, in a wild celebration, his players had just buried him with the water cooler following his team’s big 2-1 victory over defending state champion Cypress Bay in a Region 4-5A final at Cypress Bay High School.
The game winner came with just eight minutes left in regulation when Leo Acosta, following a brilliant effort by Josue “Chino” Aguilar in which he dribbled through and around five or six Lightning defenders before slipping him a pass with his outside right foot, knocked it into the top right corner of the net.
The win advances Beach (23-2-1) to the state final four for the second time in program history and first time since 1994 when they dropped a 2-1 decision to Melbourne in the championship game.
The Hi-Tides will hit the road and head north to take to Celebration High School in Orlando for a 5A state semifinal Saturday night at 7 p.m. The winner will advance to the state title game in DeLand Feb. 24.
Thursday night’s game was postponed 24 hours earlier due to the tragic shootings at Douglas High School and both teams stood quietly before the game when a moment of silence was observed for the victims.
The irony was also striking as it came on the very same field that the Hi-Tides had suffered so much pain one year ago in the same round when they saw a late 1-0 lead on the Lightning disappear and turn into a 2-1 loss.
“It’s so bittersweet tonight because a year ago was a real backbreaker for us and I was picking kids up off the ground,” said Botto. “Winning this way tonight on this field makes it that much more special.
What n job to beat this team on their home field where they hardly ever lose in the playoffs.”
It indeed was a rare postseason loss for Cypress Bay (20-2). Before Thursday night, the team had won five state championships in the past seven years and only lost two postseason games, a regional final loss to Columbus in 2014 and state semifinal loss to Winter Park two years ago.
“I couldn’t believe it. It looked like he dribbled through about 50 guys to get me the ball,” said Acosta of Aguilar’s effort. “As soon as I got it, I had no time to think about it, I don’t even think I looked at the goal, I just got foot on it. It was so painful a year ago on this very field to know we were so close.We dreamed of this moment for a whole year.”
“I just saw a little space and I just kept trying to weave my way through the defense,” said Aguilar. “I saw Leo out of the corner of my eye and knew he was in a good spot to get good foot on the ball if I could get him the ball and I did. We work on that play all the time.”
Beach took a 1-0 lead just before the first half water break. That when Toby Squire dropped a long free kick from 35 yards out down in front of the net on the left side. Acosta raced Cypress Bay keeper Santino Tondo to the loose ball and won the race, heading the ball over Tondo’s head into the right side of the net.
Just 15 seconds before the half, Cypress Bay got the equalizer when Gordon Phipps managed to get to a loose ball 20 yards out in front of the net and got good foot on a clear shot and sliced it into the top right corner of the net past diving Beach keeper Jose Escobar.