East Union could have locked up the needed three points with its dominant first half but left Sierra’s Daniel Teichiera Memorial Stadium thankful to get one Tuesday night.
Noe Martinez saved the visiting Lancers from defeat in the 77th minute, forcing the 3-3 stalemate that hurts both sides in the heated four-team race for the Valley Oak League championship.
“The tie is better than the loss, obviously, but in the first half we were dominating,” Martinez said. “We should have won.”
The senior forward also rung up the first goal of the match in the 16th minute, setting off wild back-and-forth scoring sequences that ended with Sierra (5-2-1 VOL, 8-5-2 overall) ahead 3-2 by halftime despite it taking only three shots against 15 for East Union (5-1-3, 8-3-7). Tristan Gonzalez also scored twice for Sierra.
“My guys didn’t quit,” East Union coach Ronnie Green said. “It was a hard-fought game from both teams, so I appreciate a tie.”
In the end, it was the Timberwolves who felt that they let one get away. Lancers goalkeeper Marco Galvan came up with a clutch diving save in the 72nd minute on Alejandro Paz’s turn-and-shoot try from just inside the 18-yard line.
Although East Union had the 9-5 edge on shot attempts in the second half, it was an evenly played 45 minutes until Martinez finally broke through in the end, navigating past multiple defenders with some fancy footwork leading to a 1-on-1 with the keeper.
“To give up that goal in the end when we thought we kind of had it, that was a bummer,” Sierra coach Joe Pires said. “Give credit to EU, they kept the pressure and that kid is phenomenal. We talked about that at halftime, and the players talked among themselves to not bite on his foot movement and get beat. What did they do? They stabbed at it and got beaten.”
Martinez comes out of it as the hero and Gonzalez produced the highlight-reel goal, but match of the match honors goes to Sierra netminder Lorenzo Reyes.
The senior typically splits time in goal with sophomore Anthony Ayala, who is out with an injured finger, but he took advantage of his expanded role and racked up seven saves that include several deflections of point-blank opportunities.
“(East Union) had some really good opportunities in the first half and we were able to dodge some bullets,” Pires said. “Lorenzo was big. Today was his game, and he kept us in the game throughout.”
Gonzalez ignited Sierra’s otherwise listless attack in the first half, answering Martinez’s opening goal right away. Shortly after the reset, the Timberwolves drove deep into East Union’s back third and Gonzalez capitalized on a deflection that left him with a simple attempt.
Another deflection set him up for his second goal, an uncontested banger from about 40 yards out that bent to the upper-right corner of the net in the 38th minute. This sparked a flurry of three goals in two minutes.
“That’s my range, and I have a powerful shot,” Gonzalez said while tapping his right leg. “I had the opportunity so I swung at it and let the finesse take over.”
Manuel Garcia had a nifty goal of his own one minute later, tying it for East Union with a chest trap-and-volley blast from the 18.
The Timberwolves recaptured the lead moments later following a free kick from Gerardo Magana. Striker Adib Guedior gathered the loose ball near the left post and dished a negative ball for Paz to deflect in.
“It’s always a competitive game,” Gonzalez said. “Most of us are all friends, to be honest, but once we’re on the field we’re out for each other. It’s a cross-town rivalry that’s always fun and competitive. After the game, we go eat out together.”
East Union 5, Sierra 1
The Lancers (9-0, 15-4) remain perfect in VOL play, getting two goals from Ivan Chavez. Javier Sebastian contributed one goal and one assist.
Also factoring into the attack for East Union were Hugo Martinez (goal), Anthony Sy (goal), Omar Lopez (assist) and Kole Kalin (assist).