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Clark goalie lifts his game in postseason

In England, a mistake by a soccer goalkeeper that leads to a goal is referred to as a “howler.”

Last season, Clark goalie Omar Magana found out England isn’t the only place the term applies.

In the Chargers’ final regular-season match, Magana committed a huge howler as he misplayed a shot from midfield for a goal. Needing only a tie to reach the Class 4A Sunset Region playoffs, Clark went on to lose 1-0 and miss the postseason because of a tiebreaker.

“It was a big mistake,” said Magana, who was a freshman at the time. “I guess I was nervous.”

Fast forward a year and Magana has more than redeemed himself. On Wednesday, he made eight saves and helped the Chargers beat Eldorado 4-1 in the state tournament play-in game at Bettye Wilson Park.

Clark (18-2-2) will take on Sunrise Region champion Las Vegas (14-0-3) in the state semifinals at 4 p.m. today at Wilson Park. Sunset Region champion Bishop Gorman (17-6-1) meets Northern Region winner Galena in the other semifinal at 6 p.m. The title game is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday.

“One mistake cost us a spot in the playoffs, and I think he remembered that,” Chargers coach Juan Chavez said. “In the playoffs, he gives his best. He’s kept his composure. He’s a solid keeper.”

Magana was tested several times against Eldorado, which fired 19 shots at the sophomore midway through the first half. After being caught out of position in the 24th minute, he scrambled back to tip Omar Diaz’s steep-angle shot over the crossbar. He made another key stop on Diaz four minutes later.

However, Magana’s best save came in the second half with the Chargers ahead 3-1. Eldorado’s Carlos Jaramillo dribbled to the top of the penalty area and found teammate Josh Cormier alone to his right. Cormier, who netted the Sundevils’ earlier goal and had scored six times in the playoffs, took one dribble and fired a low shot that Magana somehow managed to turn aside.

“I had a whole year to get better,” Magana said. “I’m more confident that I can play better. I have no regrets.”

Chavez said Magana is also a solid field player and is able to use those skills as a goalie.

“One of the things that’s very big is he’s like a fifth defender back there,” Chavez said. “It’s hard to find a keeper like that.

“He comes out and plays the whole 18-yard box. He controls the flow of the game. He knows when we need to quickly come out and pressure or when to pause.”

Perhaps Magana’s biggest strength, though, is his foot. On a couple of occasions this season, Magana has started counter attacks with long kicks. He recorded an assist on Clark’s third goal Wednesday when his long punt bounced over an Eldorado defender and Salvador Bernal tracked it down.

“It’s a big-time weapon,” Chavez said. “He puts it right on target. He usually kicks it three-quarters of the field, and it’s like a throw with a hand with his accuracy.”

Magana figures to be tested against Las Vegas and Joaquin Rivas, who scored two goals, including the game winner, in the Wildcats’ 3-2 win over Eldorado for the Sunrise crown.

“It’s a good feeling to be at state,” Magana said. “We want to redeem ourselves against Gorman and win state.”

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