Tijuana U-20s fall to Santos Laguna on penalty kicks in final

Tijuana U-20s fall to Santos Laguna on penalty kicks in final

TIJUANA —The fans headed for the exit before it was over. After 90 minutes of regular time, a half-hour of extra time and three spot kicks, Tijuana fans went out to continue their night elsewhere.

German Ramirez stepped up first and had his effort saved. Daniel Gomez followed Tijuana, also shooting to his right and also seeing goalkeeper Carlos Acevedo make the stop. Miguel Rodriguez couldn’t keep his shot on target.

Santos converted their three kicks, and won the U-20 Championship.

It was a back-and-forth match that ended 3-2 in Tijuana’s favor on the night, and 3-3 on aggregate including Santos’ 1-0 win in the first leg.

Xolos’ first chance at pulling the aggregate level came in the 14th minute. With plenty of traffic in the box, a deflected shot fell kindly to Jose Garcia, who powered his headed attempt with force, but struck the post.

A minute later, Paul Arriola played Garcia in. The forward cut back to Amando Moreno, but the Mexican-American couldn’t put boot to ball.

He had no issues in the 19th minute, though, smashing in a rebound to give Tijuana the opening goal on the night.

Another American put Tijuana up 2-0, and 2-1 on aggregate. Paul Arriola, a San Diego native, found the ball at his feet and the goal open. He took a touch to his right to create space and arced a shot from nearly 40 yards out into the net Santos goalkeeper Carlos Acevedo had vacated trying to cut out a pass.

But it was Santos who went into the locker room with the momentum. Tijuana failed to deal with a cross from the left side of the defense and Santos midfielder Herbert Robinson, who has been in a U.S. youth team camp, smashed in the waiting ball.

Tijuana snatched it back, in controversial fashion. In the 52nd minute, Arriola sent a turf-hugging drive in from the left side of attack. Garcia had a tap-in but failed to convert. He had another two bites at the apple, eventually seeming to head the ball in off the post. The assistant referee tried to put his flag up, but dropped it. Once he retrieved the flag, he raised it, but seemed to be overruled by referee Brian Gonzalez. The assistant lowered the flag and ran toward midfield to indicate the goal was given.

Robinson got forward again in the 69th minute, coming through traffic and again putting in a strong shot on goal, but this effort was saved by Chula Vista native Adrian Zendejas.

Zendejas couldn’t do anything about Carlos Antuna’s header. The visitors played in a ball to find an unmarked Antuna at the back post, and he easily converted the chance to bring the evening’s score back to 3-2.

Xolos looked to answer back, with the best chance coming when a bad back pass was headed on by Garcia, but Acevedo was able to collect the effort.

Some Tijuana fans stayed to serenade the team with “Ole, ole, ole, ole, Xolos, Xolos” and applaud Santos, which was presented the trophy after the match. Others already had made it back to the city’s boulevard by the time the Guerreros lifted the trophy.