BELTON — Belton goalkeeper Andres Martinez doesn’t have some secret formula or knowledge of his opponent when it comes to stopping penalty shots.
“If I’m being honest, it’s just guessing,” he said. “Pick a side, stick to it and hope for the best.”
Martinez picked the correct side enough times to give the Tigers a 3-1 advantage in penalty kicks against the Temple Wildcats after the two teams fought to a 1-all tie Friday night at Wilson-Kerzee Field.
Angel Medrano took the first shot for the Wildcats in the shootout, and Martinez dived to his left to get his first save of the extra session.
“It builds everyone’s confidence up,” Martinez said of stopping the first shot. “It calms the nerves and gets everyone excited.”
It also puts a damper on the hopes of the opponents.
“It’s a mental game more than anything else,” Temple coach Matt Corley said. “Their goalkeeper probably won the game for them.”
The Tigers’ shooters also did their part, with Mark Villanueva, Leo Martinez and Simon Howe putting their shots in the net. Temple’ Ivan Salinas scored on his chance, but Martinez stopped a shot by Eric Ortiz. After Belton’s first three shooters all scored, Martinez sealed the victory with a save on Luis Rojas’ shot.
“Andres did a great job in goal in the penalty kicks, and our guys did what they had to do to put away the shots,” Belton coach Ben Bralley said. “We needed a game like this. It was highly competitive game, fun to watch. It wouldn’t be Belton-Temple if it wasn’t.”
Most of the night was about defense as Belton had a lot of early shots stopped by Temple keeper Jose Renteria.
After Renteria’s seventh save of the night, the Tigers (8-0-1, 3-0-1 District 12-6A) finally broke through when Howe sent a corner kick to the far side of the penalty box, where Edgar Soto found a little room between defenders to head the ball in for a 1-0 Belton lead with 11:30 left in the opening half.
“I thought they were the aggressors the first half,” Corley said. “We were standing the attack until (Soto) made that great shot. Other than that one corner, I thought our kids did great.”
Down a goal heading into halftime, Corley told his players they needed to be more aggressive. After a slight change to their formation, the Wildcats tied it 11 minutes into the second half on a free kick from just outside the penalty box.
Angel Medrano’s free kick bounced off of Belton’s Ivan Vargas and trickled toward the goal. Temple’s Fransisco Ortiz got a foot on it and passed it to Joe Medrano, who had an open shot to tie it.
Neither team had many good opportunities after that until the final few minutes when Belton peppered Renteria and the Wildcats defense, trying to avoid going to the shootout. But Temple (6-2-2, 1-1-1) withstood every shot, including fending off three corner kicks by Belton in the final 3 minutes.
“We’ve got a lot of new faces in the back,” Corley said. “We talk about blocking shots before they get to goal. Belton is a good attacking team, and they are going to score a lot of goals on people, so I’m proud of the defenders back there.
“It feels like a loss. But at the end of day, it goes down as a tie. They just get two points, we get one, and we just have to regroup and know we have a game Tuesday we can get three points.”