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El Camino Real Given a Kick by Calderon

Boys' soccer: Goalkeeper's improbable goal carries Conquistadores into City semifinals for fifth consecutive season.


WOODLAND HILLS — Goalkeeper Raul Calderon of El Camino Real High isn't used to making saves. He's rarely tested.

Friday, Calderon saved the day.

Calderon didn't stop a shot. But his goal on a free kick from the Conquistadores' side of the field in the 51st minute lifted El Camino Real to a 2-1 victory over San Fernando in a City Section quarterfinal at El Camino Real.

"[Scoring the winning goal] never crossed my mind," Calderon said. "I'm pretty confident with the forwards. They usually do the job.

"I felt like I hit it well. I was aiming for the crossbar. I thought it was going to go on goal and someone was going to head it in."

Instead of an El Camino Real player heading the ball into the net, goalkeeper Edgar Rodriguez, trying to swat the ball away, hit it into his own goal.

The victory carried the Conquistadores, ranked No. 1 in the region by The Times, into the semifinals for the fifth consecutive year. El Camino Real (25-3) on Wednesday hosts Gardena, which beat the Conquistadores in the semifinals last season.

Top-seeded El Camino Real took a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute when Jason Lara took a pass from Derek Hanks and beat Rodriguez.

The Tigers (11-8-1) stuck around much longer than El Camino Real expected. Unable to compete physically with the Conquistadores, the Tigers relied on counterattacks to stay in the game.

"For a while we just stepped down to their level," defender Jason Burbidge of El Camino Real said. "I'd say they played with a lot more heart than I thought they would."

The Tigers scored off Pablo Mejia's free kick after defender Zach Feldman was called for a foul just outside the penalty area.

Mejia's initial shot was blocked by Calderon, however Juan Medina was left unmarked and tapped in the rebound to tie the score in the 40th minute.

"We played good. I think we should have won," midfielder Humberto Hernandez said. "But the one who scores the most wins. They are a good team. They have a lot of speed and are in good condition."

The Conquistadores played well, except when it came to taking shots on goal. Their finishing was poor. Of 16 shots, fewer than half were on goal.

"Missing opportunities may let the other team back into the game," Lara said. "We need to score a lot more."

Lara, who took 10 shots, got little help from his team.

"I think everybody has their days," Lara said. "Today was mine. I was cracking shots from all over."

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