Emotional ECR soccer returns to field

RESEDA -- Two days after El Camino Real’s goalkeeper Francisco Rodriguez Jr. was shot and killed in front of his house in Winnetka, the boys' soccer team was on the field against Reseda Cleveland.

Randdi Misrahi started in goal for El Camino Real, but he didn’t take the field until after kickoff. The El Camino Real goal was empty at the start of the game, one of the many tributes the team made in memory of their slain teammate.

“We talked to Randdi. He said he was OK coming on to the field,” said El Camino Real coach David Hussey. “We wanted to show that we were thinking about him. For a few seconds we didn’t have a goalie and then we subbed him in. Cleveland was great to us. A great host, they were very compassionate.”

Los Angeles Police Dept. detectives are investigating the death of Rodriguez, the 17-year-old senior goalkeeper. He was shot and killed outside his home in Winnetka on Wednesday night, less than an hour after his team tied Woodland Hills Taft 0-0 in a soccer game at El Camino Real High School.

According to police, neighbors and family members say they heard three gunshots outside the house on Cozycroft Avenue on Wednesday night around 6 p.m. When police arrived at the house, they found Rodriguez lying in the front yard. He was taken to Northridge Hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

According to various media reports, a red-haired girl came to the house and asked Rodriguez to come outside. Police are searching for the girl and a green Ford SUV, either an Explorer or Expedition, they believe was the car the girl fled in.

Hussey said he talked to his players about postponing or canceling the game against Cleveland in the wake of their teammate's death, but they decided to play.

“Francisco was always willing to play, whenever,” Hussey said. “The first game is going to be the hardest.”

Before the game, the players put a No. 26 jersey, the number Rodriguez wore when he played goalkeeper, on the field in front of their bench.

There was a 26-second moment of silence before the game. The El Camino Real players gathered in a circle and prayed afterward. They each wore black armbands to remember Rodriguez.

A girl in the stands had "RIP Pancho," Rodriguez’s nickname, written on her cheek. Fans brought signs to remember Rodriguez.

The El Camino Real goal was empty at the start of the game. After the kickoff, Misrahi ran onto the field and took his position.

He recorded the ninth shutout of the season for El Camino Real (11-4-3). The Conquistadores scored two first-half goals and won, 2-0.

Lukas Ladek gave El Camino Real a 1-0 lead with a goal in the 23rd minute.

“The game was tough,” Ladek said. “Cleveland’s a formidable foe. It was for ourselves, our school and for our friend Pancho. We will remember this game.”

Josh Cohen gave El Camino Real a 2-0 lead with a goal during injury time before halftime. He scored on a corner kick.

Misrahi and the El Camino Real defense made sure the two-goal lead stood up in the second half against Cleveland (12-2-1).

“Wow,” Ladek said. “Randdi, it’s the best I’ve ever seen him play. He saves us with all the trouble we get into.”