Outshot and, for the most part, outplayed, Weston Ranch found a way to sneak out of East Union with a 2-1 victory and sole possession of first place in the Valley Oak League on Tuesday.
The Cougars (3-0 VOL, 5-0-4 overall) did it by outworking the opposition at crucial moments, and it was Kevin Urrutia Hernandez who came through for the tying and go-ahead goals when things seemed to not go their way.
In the 76th minute, Hernandez battled with two East Union defenders to keep the ball on the offensive third following an early cross from Bryan Rodriguez. He was rewarded for his scrappy effort, which produced a clean look at goal.
“We just had to win that game,” Hernandez said. “I started playing more offensive and that’s when the goal came. This was a great win for us against a really good team.”
Part of his motivation was to pick up teammate Elvin Bolanos, who earlier drew and attempted a penalty kick that was blocked by Lancers keeper Fernando Ambriz.
Bolanos and Hernandez connected late in the first half when Weston Ranch had its best stretch possession-wise. It wasn’t until the 35th minute that the Cougars took their first shot of the match, a headed volley from Hernandez. Bolanos sent a perfect cross from the right wing on a 2-on-4 counterattack.
“Honestly, we’re lucky to leave with a win today,” Weston Ranch coach Francisco Cisneros said.
East Union (0-1-2, 3-3-6) has reason to feel disappointed with the result, which puts it in an even deeper hole in the league standings after tying both Central Catholic and second-place Oakdale on the road three weeks ago.
The Lancers’ season-long struggles on the attack continued Tuesday, as they had could not take advantage of a favorable 14-4 margin on shot attempts.
“It’s frustrating, and it has been like that pretty much all year,” East Union assistant coach Jason Silva said. “We come out controlling the game, outshooting our opponents and these are winnable games. I would say our defense is the toughest in the league. We’re giving up very few shots; we just have an issue on the other end of the field.
“It’s going to come. These guys know how to score and know how to win so it’s just a matter of time. Overall, we’re doing everything right, just not finding the back of the net.”
Neither side had a clear advantage through 10 minutes of play, but in the 13th minute the Lancers edged ahead by converting on the first shot taken. Gabriel Gutierrez took a short pass from Alex Arroyo along the right wing and fired it to the lower-left corner.
East Union dominated for the next 10-15 minutes but could not capitalize.
Weston Ranch played its first game in 19 days and eventually snapped out of its early funk.
“We never panic when we fall behind,” Cisneros said. “We’ve been down 4-1 in a half against Franklin and came back to win 5-4, and we were down 3-0 against Chavez and came back to tie, 3-3.
“Falling behind isn’t an issue, we just have to get out of that bad habit. We can’t start off with a bad half, especially against a good team like East Union.”
The Lancers re-established control at the start of the second half. They had great chances throughout the final 40 minutes, only to be thwarted by deflection from goalkeeper Francisco Vega and the defense.
“Jose Estrada looked like a goalkeeper a couple times,” Cisneros said, also crediting freshman Jeffrey Miranda, Mauro Valdez and Armando Garcia on the back line. “That’s the kind of team we have right now, we have guys who are willing to step up whether it’s defensively with a great play or attacking like Kevin did today.”
East Union 2, Weston Ranch 0
Javier Sebastian and Hugo Martinez both scored on corner-kick headers for East Union.