Mathias Medel, Staff Writer - November 24, 2019
Chula Vista FC bested LA Monsters 2-2 (5:4) at home in round three of the 2020 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Qualifiers to earn them a spot in the official tournament. Yet again, Chula Vista emerged victorious through penalty kicks, making them the first team in the tournament’s history to qualify with three consecutive penalty shootout wins.
Chula Vista went into the half with a one-goal lead through a curling freekick by Abraham Rodriguez (17) in the 34th minute. Only 11 minutes into the second 45 minute session, LA Monsters responded with their own goal. They added their second of the night in the 72nd minute with a successful penalty kick conversion, giving them a 2-1 lead.
With time running out, Chula Vista was able to salvage a goal yet again, reminiscent of the last two qualifying rounds. In the 81st minute, Mario Rubio (7) saved the home side off of a deflected shot leaving no chance for the opposing goalkeeper. As a result, the head referee blew his whistle to lead the match into extra periods of time.
Before extra time commenced, the head referee noted that there would only be two 10 minute periods due to lack of sunlight at the venue. Late in the 107th minute, Chula Vista was awarded a penalty kick, giving them an opportunity to take the lead. As Luis Espinoza (18) stepped up and placed the ball on the spot, his shot was denied by the bar, ending the game in dramatic fashion.
“It's not about how many times we fall but about how many times we get up,” CVFC assistant coach Humberto Rico said.
The referee’s whistle indicated that the game would be decided from 12 yards, resulting in the third consecutive time Chula Vista had to participate in a shootout.
CVFC put in all five of their attempts, the most notable being from Espinoza (18), who confidently slotted his kick into the lower-right corner, leaving the keeper with no chance.
“[Scoring the penalty] felt great. I know I could have put the team in a good spot by scoring my penalty in extra time, but it didn't happen,” Espinoza said. “I’m just happy to redeem myself and get the win.”
Forcing the away side to score their last kick to stay in the shootout, Chula Vista’s keeper Cristian Garcia (1) proved to be the hero again, saving the shot and sending roars throughout onlooking fans.
“Just like the last round it feels great. I do whatever I can to make my team win,” Garcia said. “It's really great putting your city out there in the map.”
CVFC has now earned a place in the US Open Cup tournament, being the third time that they will take part in the cup. They look to continue their three-game win streak as they await for the official tournament draw.
“With the same ferocity we have had for these past other games, we have to keep riding the wave and enter upcoming games with our heads held high,” Rico said. “That's key for us, and this was going to get us further in the competition.”