The Nevada Wonders are so close, yet so far in terms of breaking into the win column.
"What can you say?" coach Paul Aigbogun said with a smile and shrug of his shoulders. "We've improved so much and we're getting so close, it just seems like we're jinxed."
With only 10 players on the field in the second half, the Wonders rallied from two goals down to force overtime before they finally succumbed to the visiting San Diego Gauchos 3-2 in an exciting Pro Development League contest played Friday night at Carson High School.
Herculez Gomez, who has Major League Soccer experience with the Los Angeles Galaxy, broke loose to score in the second minute of overtime to lift the Pro Select League Gauchos to their victory.
For the Wonders (2-9-1), it marked the third time in four games victory has eluded them at the very end - and all three have been home games. That stretch includes a 3-3 tie with the Fresno Fuego, after a goal in the 90th minute, and a 1-0 loss to the Fuego on a goal in the 88th minute.
"To play like this with 10 men against a pro team like this, I'm proud of them," Aigbogun said. "And in any other league, we would have gotten a tie and at least gotten a point."
The San Diego club may have been road weary after playing the Boulder Rapids Reserves to a double overtime tie in opening round action in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday in Denver.
"We've played six games in the last two games, and we played 120 minutes of soccer at that (Denver) altitude before we came here, so we are tired," Gauchos coach Bob Maruca said. "We got real lucky tonight. These guys played real hard. They had 10 players out there. We may have gotten a little complacent, but you can't take anything away from them."
The Gauchos broke a scoreless tie in the 38th minute when Noel Musicha deflected a Wonders pass and then got past two defenders down the field for a breakaway goal. The 1-0 score stood at halftime and the Gauchos extended their lead in the 51st minute when Gomez crossed the ball from the left side to Chay Balderas, who put in a header into the net.
The Wonders absorbed another setback when forward Anthony Grillo received his second yellow card on a called penalty and was disqualified, leaving the team with 10 players on the field.
However, the Wonders got on the scoreboard in the 53rd minute when David Martin redirected a Stanton Smith corner kick into the net to cut the deficit to 2-1.
The Wonders seemed to gain momentum from there. Three minutes later, goalkeeper Mark Muleady smothered a shot in front of the net. Then Gavin Duffy launched a 30-yarder that veered just to the left of the goalpost and into the side of the net. And Gauchos goalkeeper Brandon Hearron had to leave his feet to deflect a Rafael Leora shot in the 61st minute.
The Wonders got their equalizer in the 72nd minute when Nene Coulibaly struck a grounder past the near post off a Smith corner kick. The two nearly collaborated on a go-ahead score in the 88th minute, but this time, Coulibaly flicked the ball off the crossbar.
"I thought the longer it went, the better our chances looked," Aigbogun said. "It looked like they were panicking and we were really getting on top of things."
In the end the game was decided by Gomez - a Las Vegas native who was named league player of the week on Tuesday for his two-goal performance against the Orange County Blue Star - on an open shot from the right side that he grounded past Muleady.
Notes ... The Wonders began the game wearing white jerseys, but General Manager Randy Roser said the team switched to its dark blues at halftime to avoid confusion resulting from the light blue jerseys being worn by the Gauchos. ... The Wonders will be back at home next Saturday to play the Cascade Surge from Salem, Ore., in a 7 p.m. game at Carson High School.