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Academica plays to 2-2 draw with Chivas U23 team
Academica v Chivas 1
Academica forward Daniel Borges breaks free from Chivas defenders before scoring his second goal of the match on Friday night at Joe Debely Stadium, helping the Turlock team to a 2-2 draw (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

Nearly 2,000 fans packed into the home-side bleachers of Joe Debely Stadium at Turlock High School on Friday night for the highly anticipated international friendly between Turlock’s Academica Soccer Club and the Chivas de Guadalajara U23 team. While many anticipated the Mexican squad to easily handle AC after scoring a pair of goals through the first 11 minutes, the match was played to a 2-2 draw in a thrilling, physical display.

Scoring the two goals for Academica was former Pitman High star and current UC Merced striker Daniel Borges. AC looked up at the 2-0 deficit for most of the first half, but Borges gave his team momentum heading into halftime when he received a cross and fired in a goal in the 47th minute. Just three minutes into the second half, Borges used his blazing speed to dribble through defenders, giving himself a one-on-one duel with Chivas goalkeeper Axel Leyva. He proceeded to fire a strike past a diving attempt to knot it all up.

Academica v Chivas 2
Academica’s Andy Velasquez kept up toe-to-toe with the physicality of the Chivas U23 team during their 2-2 draw Friday night at Joe Debely Stadium (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

“It felt amazing to score both times,” Borges said. “Especially with this crowd here, all I could do was smile. But during the game, I mean, it’s a pro team, but I felt as if it was just another day at the office.”

Academica head coach Sergio Sousa was also someone who wasn’t surprised by the forward’s big game.

“Daniel Borges scores goals. It’s as simple as that,” he said. “The point of the game is to score more goals than the other team. Right now, if there's any player on our team that looks like they're going to score a goal every time they're playing, it’s Borges… When Daniel Borges is doing Daniel Borges things, it’s a fun thing to watch and it’s huge for our team.”

Starting the game at goalie for AC was Robby Rosas, who made three saves in the first half, including one in the seventh minute. After punching the ball away, it landed right into the possession of Isaac Martinez, who tapped it in easily for the first score of the afternoon. Guadalajara’s second goal came four minutes later when Diego Latorre fired in a header after a corner strike from one of his teammates.

“Those first few minutes, I think the first thing that comes to my head is just ‘excitement,’” Rosas said. “You see how excited the fans were, and we felt it, but we still had a job to do. And I think that first half was kind of us getting acclimated to the speed of play. I think anyone could tell that these guys with Chivas are professionals and their speedsters. They were level ahead. But we got used to it and I think even though they scored goals, I think we did a good job of responding to it.”

Academica held strong defensively while trying to mount the comeback and while fighting to keep the Chivas from jumping back ahead.

In the 59th minute of play, Joey Velazquez made a timely slide-tackle to prevent a third Chivas score. In the 84th minute, backup goalie Angel Ruiz caught a header attempt. And in stoppage time, Ricky Rosas recorded another slide tackle to arguably save the game.

Academica v Chivas 3
Chivas goalkeeper Cristo Navarrete signs autographs for local soccer fans after their 2-2 draw against Turlock’s Academica SC on Friday night (CHRISTOPHER CORREA/The Journal).

Players from both teams embraced after the hard-fought match and joined in applauding the fans that came out to watch. Those seated in the VIP area on the pitch were also treated to a meet-and-greet in which Chivas and Academica players took time for photos and to sign autographs. One elementary-aged girl was even close to tears as Chivas goalkeeper Cristo Navarrete signed her red and white jersey.

“This is the first time something like this has happened in Turlock,” Robby Rosas added. “Although I’ve been playing for Academica now for three years, this is probably the coolest moment I’ve ever seen.”

Sousa took a moment at midfield to watch the players engage with the passionate crowd.

“The fact that there were so many people here, it’s a big thing, especially at this level.”

Academica SC currently competes in the NorCal division of the USL League Two, sporting a 1-5 record heading into Friday’s big match.

Academica v Chivas 4
After a long, physical 2-2 draw Friday night, players from Academica and Chivas embraced and posed for a photo at midfield of Joe Debely Stadium (CHRISTOPHER CORREA/The Journal).

“We’re growing,” Sousa continued. “It’s cool to see an event like this in Turlock. We probably won over a little bit more local support tonight. And I think at this level, it's a big thing. If you don't have the community there to rally your team, it's really tough to to do well. But when you have a couple hundred more fans at the games, that atmosphere alone can carry a club forward… We needed that. It’s good for these guys to get experience playing at this level and getting some exposure. It was a really fun night.”