GREG LUCA | STAFF WRITER
PHARR — In his first year playing for Valley View after transferring from Edinburg Economedes, Ivan Rodriguez had been having a relatively quiet season before Thursday night. Sure, he’d scored the occasional goal here or there, but he hadn’t proven to be the type to come through in a huge moment or take over a game.
Playing his first playoff game in a Tigers uniform on Thursday, Rodriguez stepped up with a pair of goals, including the game winner with 4:21 to play, lifting Valley View past PSJA Southwest 3-2 in a Class 5A bi-district game at PSJA North High School.
“He had not been explosive at all during the season, and then this time he just surprised us,” Valley View coach Damian Magallan said through an interpreter. “I’m just glad he came through at the right time.”
With the score knotted at two, Rodriguez corralled a long ball and split a pair of defenders before pushing the winning goal into the back of the net.
As he sprinted and slid to the turf just beyond the sideline, his teammates poured off Valley View’s bench and piled on top of him.
“I knew I had one last run at the goal, so I gave it all I could, and I kicked it in,” Rodriguez said through an interpreter. “I have no words to explain that feeling.”
Valley View’s season looked to be in peril early in the game, as PSJA Southwest scored first on a goal by Roberto Colula to take a 1-0 lead that stood until halftime.
A Valley View team with history and aspirations of making it to the state tournament was facing the possibility of a second-straight bi-district playoff exit after losing to Brownsville Pace to open the 2015 postseason.
“Their goal came in, but the will to keep going and keep fighting and keep winning, the team had that mentality,” forward Avi Garcia said through an interpreter. “We knew it was going to be tough coming back, but it wasn’t impossible.”
Southwest stifled Valley View’s offense early on with a tenacious offsides trap led by senior defender Manny Ortiz. The Tigers put the ball in the back of the net and began celebrating goals twice in the first four minutes of the game, only to find the referee’s flag raised to signal the infraction.
Valley View adjusted its attack by sending the ball out wide before trying to press forward, and the move paid dividends in the second half.
After Rodriguez got behind the defense and rocketed a shot into the top of the net to level the match with 32:56 to play, Garcia beat the offsides trap for a breakaway and scored to give Valley View a 2-1 lead with 19:30 remaining.
“I was happy, and I knew I was going to put the ball in there, and that was going to give us a big confidence booster,” Garcia said.
PSJA Southwest netted an equalizer with 10:34 to play after Daniel Salinas scored on a penalty kick, then nearly earned a lead when Francisco Montoya put a free kick off the crossbar with 7:30 remaining.
Rodriguez’s game-winning goal was the last significant chance for either side.
“The emotion is indescribable,” Magallan said. “The emotion carried the team. You have to live it in order to experience it. I don’t have words for it.”
PSJA Southwest coach Jesus Palomin was pleased with how his team played, even down senior captain and center midfielder Humberto Medina to a suspension stemming from a red card in the final regular season game.
Palomin and Magallan were both displeased with the officiating crew from Corpus Christi, which included two 19-year-olds. Palomin thought Valley View was offsides on its second goal, had been mistakenly rewarded a penalty shot and got away with a delay of game late. Magallan felt the officials were incorrect on the offsides calls that disallowed Valley View’s first two scores.
“We gave the boys everything we needed to battle Valley View, and we had an officiating crew that plays a big role in the final outcome,” Palomin said. “It looked like we were going to pull it off. We had good scouting, and a good film report. We just didn’t count on that third factor, which was the officiating.”