Fresno Fuego came out flying from the first blow of the whistle in their Premier Development League season opener against visiting Golden State Misioneros F.C at Chukchansi Park.
Utilizing the quick feet of outside midfielders Paul Islas and Bruno Brumati, the Fuego pressured upfield to jump to a 2-0 lead in the first half-hour.
But that advantage disappeared in the second half as the Misioneros came back thanks to a hat trick by Daniel Garcia to force a 3-3 draw Saturday night in front of about 2,000 fans.
Garcia, a second-half substitute for Golden State, equalized on a penalty after his team was awarded a foul in the 85th minute.
The result was a disappointment for ninth-year Fuego coach Scott Alcorn.
“It was just a tough challenge, but all referees see it differently,” Alcorn said of the late foul that drew the penalty that led to the tying goal. “I thought we were the better team. … But unfortunately that’s the way this sport is sometimes.”
The Fuego took the lead 12 minutes in as 35-year-old team captain Gaston Cignetti found Renato Bustamante for the first goal of the season.
Less than 15 minutes later, the veteran Cignetti dished his second assist of the evening on a through ball to Paul Islas. Islas, an All-Western Conference team selection last season, slotted it past the goalkeeper to double Fresno’s lead.
After halftime, the Misioneros got on the board with Garcia’s first goal to cut the deficit to one in the 53rd minute.
Cignetti, the match MVP, still had some fight left in, collecting a rebound and pounding it away to put Fresno back up one.
However, a string of mistakes in the backfield cost the Fuego as Garcia scored in the 65th and converted the penalty 20 minutes later.
Local product and UCLA sophomore Nathan Smith played a full 90 minutes for Fuego.
“We had the lead, but we made a couple of silly mistakes that cost us and I thought a lot of guys were tired,” he said
“But we’ll get there with each game.”
All-Valley girls soccer match ends in sudden death
After a 2-2 tie at the end of regulation, the National All-Valley All-Stars outlasted the American All-Valley squad in sudden death penalty kicks to win 8-7 in the second annual Central Valley Sports Report All-Valley game.
Alyssa Nishikawa, of Bullard, earned the match Fighting Spirit award and Knights’ teammate Ka’lea Ashley was named Most Valuable Player.
In the boys game, the American All-Valley All-Stars won 4-2 over the National All-Stars. Juan Carlos Lazcano, of Central High, was given the Fighting Spirit award. El Diamante’s Jason Ruiz was MVP.
All four award winners were also 2015 Fresno Bee All-Stars.