Cruz provides spark as Sundevils pull away from Wildcats

With Eldorado’s boys soccer team clinging to a one goal lead Thursday at halftime against rival Las Vegas High, Luis Cruz felt his team needed a spark.

It took him less than two minutes to make a difference.

Cruz scored two second-half goals, and Ruben Duran added a goal and an assist to help the host Sundevils pull away from the Wildcats 4-1 and take sole possession of first place in the Northeast League.

“In the first half, I was mad at myself,” said Cruz, whose team held a 6-5 edge in shots before halftime. “I wanted to do better for the team because I knew this was going to decide first place.”

Duran dribbled the ball into the box in the 42nd minute for Eldorado (11-2-1, 9-1 Northeast), only to have Las Vegas goalkeeper Enrique Adame nearly turn aside his effort.

But as the ball sailed toward the endline, Duran leapt in the air and kicked the ball back into play, where it landed at Cruz’s feet for the easy tap-in from inside the 6-yard box.

“I was thinking, ‘don’t miss it, don’t miss it,’ ” Cruz said. “We practice playing the ball wide and crossing it in, but I was lucky to be there.”

Cruz added another marker four minutes later, heading home Chris Perez’s long chip into the penalty box for the final tally.

“That’s what (Cruz) can bring to the game when he’s healthy,” said Eldorado coach Gerald Pentsil, whose team clinched a playoff berth. “With Ruben (playing on the right), he’s dangerous from the other side.

“Luis is one of the few players who has been on varsity all four years, and he’s been a part of the rivalry for a while.”

Ruben Duran put the Sundevils ahead less than two minutes into the match, taking a pass from Edgar Duran and drilling the ball into the upper part of the goal.

But Las Vegas (10-3-1, 8-2) answered in the 25th minute, as Edgar Garcia found plenty of space on the top right corner of the 18-yard box, paused to set the ball and delivered a low blast into the left edge of the goal.

Francisco Santiago scored the eventual match-winning goal for Eldorado in the 38th minute on a nearly impossible shot from the corner.

Santiago cruised into the corner and turned inside to cross the ball but bent it enough to sail through Adame’s arms and inches inside the far post.

Sammy Tapia made three saves for Eldorado, and reserve goalkeeper Daniel Perez stopped Rafa Barajas’ 65th-minute penalty kick to keep the Wildcats at bay.

“Because it’s two first-place teams, this allows us to put a few points between us, which is good,” Pentsil said. “But we know we can’t rest. We have a game Monday.

“We’ll get back to work tomorrow.”

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