WATSONVILLE — It was a tough moment to watch on Saturday evening, as Pajaro Valley United FC starting goalkeeper Christian Hernandez laid on the ground in pain with coaches and teammates surrounding him.
It was up to the backup goalie, Jose Gonzalez, to keep the shutout going with just a little more than 30 minutes left in the opening round of the United Premier Soccer League playoffs.
Gonzalez did the job along with the help of his defense, as PV United defeated the No. 6 seed San Leandro United FC, 2-0, at Watsonville High.
“I wasn’t prepared but you’re always prepared,” Gonzalez said. “I wasn’t expecting it but it’s always in the back of my mind as a backup. Anything can happen… there’s an accident and you gotta be ready.”
The No. 3 seed PV United picked up its first clean sheet of the season just at the right time. It’s the second time they’ve beaten San Leandro this season.
“I’m excited and I’m pretty sure the team’s excited,” said Gonzalez about getting the first shutout this season. “It’s good, that means we’re playing more as a team and we’re connecting more as a team because it’s pretty hard to keep a shutout, especially in the playoffs.”
Anthony Hurtado of the Pajaro Valley United FC celebrates after a goal was scored in Saturday night's playoff game against San Leandro United FC. PV United defeated San Leandro, 2-0, and will face Nevada Coyotes FC in Reno next week on Saturday. (Juan Reyes — Register-Pajaronian)
PV United coach Ernie Hurtado said he was pleased with the way the backfield and both of his goalkeepers excelled on a big stage.
“The defense came up strong and our keepers made a couple of great saves,” he said. “That’s a really tough (San Leandro) team and they’re really aggressive.”
Next up, PV United will play in the Wild West Division Semifinals against the No. 2 seed Nevada Coyotes FC at Damonte Ranch High School in Reno on Saturday with kickoff scheduled at 4 p.m.
It’ll be the first meeting between both teams this season. Coyotes FC (7-2-1) finished with 22 points, which was the same as PV United (8-2-1), but won the tie breaker based on goal differential of 20 to 5.
Hurtado said he hasn’t had a chance to scout the Coyotes FC. He said it could be both an advantage and disadvantage because neither team knows what they’re capable of doing.
“We don’t know them and they don’t know us,” he said.
As for Saturday’s game against San Leandro, PV United’s offense pushed the ball down the field and set themselves up with chances to score early in the game. But key offensive players like Christian Cisneros and David Ireta either shot the ball far off goal or made bad passes, which is something Hurtado said he’s not used to seeing from his playmakers.
“I was a bit frustrated, but something had to come out in the end,” Ireta said.
Hurtado said San Leandro was a strong, aggressive team and some of the bad plays are just part of the game.
“It was a tough team, (San Leandro) came with everything,” Hurtado said. “We missed a few too many shots that we probably should’ve capitalized and made it easier in the second half.”
Cisneros finally got going in the 32nd minute, scoring the first goal of the game that gave PV United a 1-0 lead.
Hernandez also held his ground in front of the net by racking up three saves, including a crucial stop just before halftime.
Hurtado said the offense looked sharper and passed the ball better in the second half, which frustrated San Leandro’s defense as the game went on.
“They started arguing between themselves once they seen that they couldn’t catch up to the ball,” Hurtado said.
David Ireta of the Pajaro Valley United FC scored a goal in the second half of Saturday night's playoff game against San Leandro United FC. (Juan Reyes — Register-Pajaronian)
Ireta sealed the deal in added time, as he slipped a shot past San Leandro’s defense and the goalkeeper.
“They played strong and they’re a good team,” said Ireta about San Leandro. “They were physical and we had a little bit of luck scoring two goals.”
But sometimes luck is all a team needs to win a game.
Hernandez continued to guide the defense until he went down with an ankle injury in the 65th minute. Gonzalez came into the game and said he was more than ready to finish the job.
Gonzalez gave the defense credit for great communication on the field, especially during counter attacks.
“Communication is the key, always,” he said.
Hurtado said the goalies and defense played lights out in both halves to collect the shutout win.
“I usually rotate those two (goalkeepers),” he said. “One guy plays one game, one guy plays another game just to give everybody an equal opportunity.”
It explains why Gonzalez was ready to go. He made a key save of his own in the 80th minute that upheld the clean sheet and extended PV United’s season.
“It’s exciting, for me at least,” Gonzalez said. “It’s the first time going out anywhere other than here in town, so that’s pretty exciting.”
RP Sports Boxscore
Pajaro Valley United FC – 2
San Leandro United FC – 0
Up Next: PV United FC vs. Nevada Coyotes FC
When: Saturday, 4 p.m.
Where: Damonte Ranch High School, Reno