Miguel Barbosa was given a second chance and converted.
Good thing, too, because he wasn’t presented with another.
Barbosa broke the scoreless tie with a header, Victor Garibay added a needed insurance goal and East Union’s boys soccer team held on to beat visiting Liberty Ranch of Galt 2-1 in a first-round playoff match Tuesday.
The Lancers (14-7-2) will resume the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV playoffs Thursday against Central Valley in Ceres. The win was East Union’s first in postseason play in two decades. It qualified last year for its first appearance since the 1992-93 winter season.
Barbosa, EU’s leading scorer with 16 goals this season, watched the final 50 minutes of the match from the sidelines. He and Liberty Ranch defender Collin Raymond were both issued yellow cards after emotions momentarily got the best of them.
With the Lancers holding a two-goal advantage, East Union coach Clarence Goes did not want to risk Barbosa getting booked for a second time, which would lead to an ejection and a suspension for the next match.
“It was a horrible feeling not being out there, but my teammates did what they had to do,” Barbosa said.
What they did was enough.
In the 11th minute, Barbosa was in the goal area when he received a long throw-in from Jordan Kron but headed the over the crossbar. Just two minutes later on a similar play, Kron again found Barbosa in the goal box for another head shot. Barbosa struck it solidly to Liberty Ranch goalkeeper Benjamin Vallejo, who caught the ball behind the goal line.
“I knew I had to connect,” Barbosa said. “I couldn’t let two of those (opportunities) go to waste.”
Garibay delivered the second goal in the 26th minute with a well-placed shot from the top of the 18-yard line, snugly fitting the ball low between the diving Vallejo and the left post.
Liberty Ranch (7-6-5) came close to forcing overtime as it took control in the second half. The Hawks had a 12-8 shot advantage over the final 40-minute stanza, with Eduardo Ramirez and Jesus Cota each threatening with several shots that were sent wide of the posts.
In the 65th minute, Cota jolted past the Lancer defense as Juan Mena set him up with a well-timed through ball. Cota was initially unable to convert on the breakaway, but he was fouled in the penalty box by EU goalie Dominic Riella (eight saves) while waiting for reinforcements to catch up.
Mena took the penalty kick and sliced the deficit in half.
“The challenging part was keeping the kids motivated for the entire game,” Goes said. “They really made it harder on themselves in the second half and it was nerve-wracking. They played well in the first half but they just didn’t seem to be as mentally into it in the second half.”
For Liberty Ranch, it was a valiant comeback effort after looking outmatched for most of the opening half. The team is in its second varsity season, first with seniors, and played its first-ever postseason contest Tuesday.
“We put up a heck of a fight,” Liberty Ranch coach Eugen Deaconu said. “We came out on the losing end, but I’m proud of our accomplishments this season. We only loss two games in league (Sierra Valley Conference), and those were to the league champions (Vista del Lago).