Tricky Ricardo magical again
CHAMPAIGN – Centennial soccer coach Cole Bushue undoubtedly will celebrate the day Champaign Central star Ricardo Vega graduates.
Vega bedeviled Bushue's Chargers on Monday, scoring the game-tying goal in the 53rd minute as the teams played to a 1-1 tie in the Battle of Champaign.
Vega's goal was a rarely seen type. From 30 yards out, the Central senior lobbed a high shot past keeper Michael Drackley, who was away from the net.
"Sometimes great players make great plays," Bushue said.
"Ricardo is a great player, but I hate seeing him on the field because every time he plays against us, he's magic. He's just absolutely unbelievable against us. He's a great kid and a fantastic player. I wish he didn't always have to light us up like that."
Vega took some ribbing from his teammates. One called it a lucky shot.
Nah, Vega said. There was a method to the madness.
"I don't think it was lucky," Vega said. "I shot it because he wasn't in the goal.
"They weren't expecting a shot. Nobody was expecting a shot from that far, especially within the air."
It was the game's biggest play, distinctly changing the momentum for the final 27 minutes.
"You have to give him credit," Central coach Josh Alford said. "He picked up his head, saw where the goalie was at and took the risky shot. And, hey, we got fortunate and it went in."
From there, Central (9-6-2, 4-2-2 Big 12) controlled the balance of play. It was that part that left the Chargers feeling a bit disappointed.
"They got a nice shot and we kind of panicked," Centennial senior Kenny Kranz said. "It was a different game from then on, and we felt like we had to make one up."
It was uncharacteristic of the Chargers (16-3-2, 6-0-1), a veteran-laden squad known for its poise.
"I was a little disappointed with how we reacted," Bushue said. "There was (27 minutes) left in the game and all of a sudden we acted like we were losing by two or three goals.
"To be fair to our guys, for large parts of the second half we did an OK job, a good enough job to get out of here with a tie. I think it's good for us that these guys do feel so bad about a tie. It's a good step for what we want to do."
Centennial is the No. 1 seed in the sectional complex with high expectations of a lengthy postseason run. Monday's result, the Chargers hope, will refocus them on what's ahead
"We won Twin City; that's what counts," said Kranz, whose team was 1-0-1 in Twin City matches. "But it's disappointing because we raised the bar higher than (this).
"Obviously it's not a good result, but it'll help us."
Said Bushue: "We'll be all right, I think. It's kind of good for these guys to get humbled every once in a while. It's good to get back down to earth a little bit, get a little more refocused in training and make that push in the playoffs."