Las Positas defeats Taft College on penalty kicks

Saturday’s first-round men’s soccer playoff started and ended badly for Taft College.

To begin with the Cougars’ leading scorer, Rogelio Sustaita, suffered a frightening head injury that sent him to the hospital in an ambulance.

It ended when the teams were unable to break a 1-all tie through two overtime periods, and visiting Las Positas College eliminated the Cougars on penalty kicks.

“That’s part of the sport,” Cougar head coach Angelo Cutrona said.  “I thought we had a chance to go pretty far (in the playoffs). 
Unfortunately, there were a lot of little things that hurt the track of the game.”

He said his young team was unable to overcome the loss of a star player and Las Positas’ game plan.

“Our concern for Rogelio was impossible to ignore.  (Las Positas) clearly wanted to slow the game down and we sort of fell into that.  Our young guys didn’t know how to react to it.”

Losing Sustaita compounded the issue.

“When he went down it was definitely something that hurt us.  He was our go-to guy.  We definitely missed him.  I read an article that they were going to mark up Rogelio.”

(Mark up is a soccer term meaning a team plans to closely guard a top player.)

Cutrona wasn’t suggesting any deliberate attempt to hurt Sustaita.  He was injured when he and a Hawk defender collided going for a header.

Sustaita was back in his campus dorm room that night following treatment for what Cutrona described as a severe blow to the side of his face.

“There was no concussion,” he said.  “It was more like a knockout.  He took a horrible blow.  He’ll need six to eight weeks to be fully recovered.”

The Cougars had the best chance to win the game their coach said.

“We clearly had three or four chances that we didn’t put away, but that’s the way things happen sometimes.  I haven’t seen us play that poorly in a long time, but give credit to Las Positas.  They had a good game plan and executed it perfectly.”

After a scoreless first half, Las Positas scored on a free kick in the 60th minute that hit a clump of dirt and kangarooed away from goalkeeper J.D. Cisneros.

This late in the season the field is brown with virtually no grass because of heavy use by the college’s two soccer teams and the community’s youth soccer program.

“The field is in terrible condition,” Cutrona said.  “It took an awkward bounce, hitting that bump.  It was just a funky thing that happened.”

TC’s lone goal came on a penalty kick from Edgar Rodriguez in the 69th minute following a handball call against a Hawk defender in front of his own goal.

When two overtime periods failed to settle it the outcome hinged on penalty kicks where the Hawks prevailed 4-1.

It was big upset.  The Cougars were the No. 5 seed and Las Positas the No. 12 seed – one of those situations where the best team didn’t win.

Las Positas coach Larry Aguiar conceded as much.

“I just got off the phone with their coach,” Cutrona said Sunday night.  “He told me they got lucky and that we were clearly a much better team than they are.”

That probably won’t ease the pain much, but Cutrona is already looking ahead to next season.

“We should be very hungry to get after it next year.  I’m very proud of what we accomplished.  These young guys won the conference championship.  I think they learned a lot from this experience.  I’m very optimistic about next year.”

Taft finished the season 12-5-3 and won eight straight games before losing Saturday.  Las Positas is 11-6-3 heading into a second round match at No. 4 Hartnell.