Cristian Perez set up East Union’s first goal and scored its second Tuesday night to lead the No. 6 Lancers to a 2-1 win over No. 11 El Capitan of Merced in opening-round action of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III boys soccer playoffs at Dino Cunial Field.
Ten minutes into the game, Perez had the ball on the wing and fired a laser cross to Alex Arroyo who got the ball into the net from 15 yards out to put East Union (11-3-8) ahead.
“I saw my teammate (Perez) centering it to me and I had to shoot it,” Arroyo said. “If I was going to miss it I was going to miss it, but if I was going to make it, it was going to be a beautiful goal.
“I figured it was 50-50 it would go in. I have been working on my shots with my teammates, going to the park and practicing shooting, and I was kind of confident with all the extra practice we have been doing.”
Of his assist, Perez said, “I had a chance to shoot the ball, but then I saw Alex wide open so I got it over there and he had a chance one-on-one.”
The Gauchos (10-6-5) tied the game late in the first half when a direct kick was misplayed and rebounded into the Lancers net.
With 12 minutes left in the game, East Union’s Gabriel Gutierrez was fouled just inside the 18, setting up a penalty kick. Perez made the most of the opportunity, blasting it into the corner for the final score of 1-1.
“I was nervous,” Perez said. “We were tied 1-1 and I had to make it to give us a chance to win. That’s a lot of pressure.
“Their goalie guessed the right way, but he didn’t have a chance to block it because I got a lot of power behind it.”
The Lancers have significantly outshot their opponents this season in most games and Tuesday was no different with East Union putting up 20 shots to just eight for El Capitan.
“Our defense has been our backbone,” Lancers coach Ronnie Green said. “We had one mental breakdown and that is how they scored their goal. Aside from the goal, in the first half they only had one other shot on goal.
“We just have to stay more composed and finish the opportunities we have. The formation we are using is working; it’s just a question of coming together and getting the goals in the net.”
East Union travels to Los Banos on Thursday to face No. 3 Pacheco in a quarterfinal contest at 6 p.m.