If there is one trait the Clark boys soccer team has shown this season, it’s the ability to come from behind.
And the Chargers did it again Wednesday.
Host Clark erased a two-goal halftime deficit and snatched a 3-3 tie with two-time defending Class 4A state champion Bishop Gorman to remain in first place in the Southwest League.
Junior Salvador Bernal scored two goals for the Chargers (12-1-2, 10-1-2 Southwest), who all but clinched a spot in the Sunset Region playoffs with three games remaining. Clark missed out on the postseason each of the last two seasons.
“The biggest thing with this team is before their best game comes out they’ve got to be down,” Clark coach Juan Chavez said. “It took those two goals to wake them up and for the seniors to come together and say, ‘Hey, this is our last home game and we’re not going to come out with a loss.’ ”
The Gaels (12-6-1, 10-3-1) took a 3-2 lead when Shane Thompson touched down a long pass from Sean Zaher and blasted a left-footed shot past Clark goalkeeper Jonathan Gil in the 62nd minute.
But the Chargers answered when Bernal sliced through the box unmarked and headed home a free kick from Oscar Manzanares in the 67th minute. Bernal followed the goal with a back flip in front of the Chargers’ bench.
“They have one player,” Gorman coach Nick Arbelaez said of Bernal, who had a hat trick when Clark overcame a 1-0 deficit to beat the Gaels 3-2 earlier this season. “We were looking for him, but we couldn’t find a way to contain him, like everybody else in the state. He’s a solid player.”
Clark appeared to take the lead in the 75th minute when Juan Chavez tucked the ball into the net after his first effort hit the post, but the Chargers forward was ruled offside. The Gaels had a golden opportunity a minute later when a loose ball came to Cody Barnett at the top of the box, but his low shot whistled wide left.
Bernal then nearly came up with the game-winner in the 79th minute, only to see Gaels goalkeeper Jake O’Rourke make a diving stop.
“We would have liked the victory, but a tie means we’re still in first place, and that’s all that matters,” Bernal said. “When we were down, we didn’t want to lose. We gave it all for the seniors since it was their last (home) game.”
The Gaels, missing four starters, began to control the midfield midway through the first half. Their hard work paid off in the 30th minute, when Austin Cain was taken down in the box and Barnett converted the penalty kick for a 1-0 lead.
Gorman then made it 2-0 in the 37th minute as Clark goalkeeper Oscar Gamez couldn’t handle a long ball from Gaels defender JoJo Vitale in the box, and Nic Eary headed it into a wide-open net.
Clark came out inspired in the second half, though, putting pressure on Gaels defenders with several long passes. In the 57th minute, Bernal got loose down the left wing and sent a pass to Chavez, who slid and knocked the ball into the top of the net to make it 2-1. Chavez missed a nearly identical chance early in the first half.
“The first goal we got got us really motivated,” Bernal said, “and from there it went.”
The Chargers got the equalizer in the 60th minute when Bernal took a long pass from Angelo Soro and slotted a low, left-footed shot past a diving O’Rourke.
“We’re glad to get out of here with a tie,” Arbelaez said. “It was a tale of two halves. If we could have put the third one in and made it 3-0, it might have been a different game. We came out here and played the best we could with what we have.”