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Desert Region: Cougars use second-half rally to claim crown

Coronado’s boys soccer team spent much of the first half Saturday probing for offensive opportunities, but finding none.

When the Cougars finally got good chances in the second half, Alfredo Diaz made sure they took advantage.

Diaz scored a pair of second-half goals, and Coronado defeated Durango 3-0 in the championship game of the Desert Region tournament at Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex.

“He’s huge, he’s clutch,” Coronado coach Dustin Barton said of Diaz. “He’s my man. He’s a great kid. He always comes up big.”

The game was scoreless until the 48th minute, when Lincoln Aquino’s shot deflected off the Durango goalkeeper and Diaz knocked home the rebound from point-blank range for a 1-0 lead.

“I saw that the keeper left it on the ground, and I was like this is a great opportunity to come through,” Diaz said. “I came in and finished.”

Diaz added a goal on an assist from Andrew Siciliano in the 61st minute to give the Cougars (19-2-1) some breathing room.

“It took a lot of stress off,” Barton said. “We needed that, for sure.

“He’s been doing that ll year, so we kind of expect him to do it. He’s our goal scorer. That’s his job.”

Aquino put a 30-yard free kick into the upper right corner in the 78th minute for the final margin.

Cougars goalkeeper Josue Ruiz made five saves to preserve the shutout. He had a pair of key saves, deflecting a shot off the post in the first half, then making a save with his foot in the 73rd minute to preserve the shutout.

“The biggest factor was him, because if we would have went down a goal or two, we would have been in big trouble,” Barton said. “But he was absolutely fantastic. He’s the player of the tournament so far.”

Durango (15-6-5) had more opportunities in the first half, with four shots to Coronado’s two. But Ruiz helped keep the game tied as Coronado waited for something to break offensively,.

“We coudn’t find it in the first half,” Barton said. “It was a great organized defense, and we couldn’t find any room.”

The Cougars play Mountain Region champion Las Vegas (17-1-1) for the Southern Nevada Championship at 4 p.m. on Monday at Rancho. Both Coronado, which won last year’s state title, and Durango advance to the six-team state tournament.

“I just feel excited to just have another opportunity to go back-to-back,” Diaz said.

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