By Natallie Rocha

OCEANSIDE, Calif. (June 23, 2018)-- A 70th-minute goal from Weston FC's Bautista Hambra capped off a hard-fought battle against Sockers FC, giving his team a 2-1 lead and clinching a berth in the knockout round quarterfinals of the Development Academy U-16/17 Playoffs. While Sockers seemed to put in a stoppage time equalizer that would have booked passage to the next round, the offside flag waved off the goal and secured the victory for Weston FC.

The game carried do-or-die implications from the start. A win or draw for the Sockers punched their ticket to the next round, while Weston FC required a win.

Weston put pressure on the Sockers' defense from the start, but the perennial powerhouse from Chicago continued to pass around the back and play out of the aggressive press. The possession created several attacking runs and the possession put them ahead early in the game. A header goal from Stefan Stojanovic glided down to the back post to put the Sockers up 1-0 in the ninth minute.

Following the goal, Sockers FC dominated the first half in chances and possession. The Mid-America Divison champs kept the ball in Weston FC's half and continued to put pressure on the defense with attacking runs on the wings, earning free kicks and peppering the goalie with shots.

Weston brought a sense of urgency when the second half kicked off. Early in the frame, Max Morales curved a cross in from left side. On the attempted clearance by Sockers, one of the players touched the ball, and the ref called for a hand ball. Weston captain Simon Vasquez stepped up to take the penalty kick and Vasquez drilled the ball down the center as the Sockers' 'keeper dove right to even the score at 1-1.

With 30 minutes left to play, Sockers FC found several opportunities on corner kicks and attempts on the net. They continued to play a controlled game of possession, and chances continued to open up in Weston's defensive third, with Robert Matei serving up many dangerous crosses from the right side.

In the 70th minute, Weston found a chance of its own. Roger Freites collected a through ball on the right side of the six-yard-box and cut it back to Bautista Hambra at the penalty spot. Hambra buried the ball to the left side of the net, to give Weston FC a 2-1 lead it would not relinquish.

From the ensuing kick-off, Sockers FC chased the equalizer, but the Weston FC defense fought to preserve the lead. At four minutes of stoppage time, Sockers played a through ball to Stojanovic. He sent it to the back post for what looked to be the winner, but the offside flag killed the goal and saved Weston's 2-1 lead until the final whistle.