The best of Marcus Montano may have yet to come.
That’s good news for the Manteca High boys soccer team. The third-year junior striker accounted for every goal in a 3-0 win at East Union on Thursday, keeping the Buffaloes on pace with first-place Oakdale at the halfway point of the Valley Oak League season.
Montano was the beneficiary of good passing when he struck in the 49th, 50th and 58th minutes. Head coach Justin Coenenberg said his leading scorer’s touch and timing are returning after taking a year off from competitive club soccer. Montano took a break to concentrate on schoolwork while honoring his commitments to other sports programs (football, basketball).
“I feel like Marcus is really starting to come around,” Coenenberg said. “It’s big for us at this point in the season when we need to keep winning.”
Montano came around just in time Thursday night. With East Union controlling much of the action early in the first half, it was Montano’s goal in the final seconds that got the Buffaloes (6-1 VOL, 14-1-1 overall) rolling.
Jason Maravilla carried the ball into the penalty area and charged toward the left post. Instead of taking the open shot himself from an awkward angle, he delivered a negative pass to Montano who crushed it passed East Union keeper Abel Lopez (7 saves).
“I was trying hard to score,” Montano said. “I had a couple of opportunities and they didn’t go in. Just had to keep working and I knew that one was going to come.
“I saw that play developing since it ever since it started. I knew he (pass) the ball off so I called for it and finally got one in.”
The halftime whistle sounded on the reset, and the Lancers (2-5, 2-9-2) were deflated by what had just transpired.
“We were pretty good in the first half, but that goal put them out of the game,” EU coach Victor Polanco said.
East Union had its best opportunities in the first 15 minutes of the match, including two from Jose Luis Cerda in the sixth and eighth minutes. The Lancers struggled to mount an attack for the remainder of the game until Jaime Castaneda blew a one-on-one look too high in the 75th minute.
“That’s what we need to focus a little more on is finishing when we’re inside the 18, because we missed a lot of opportunities,” Polanco said.
Manteca was otherwise in command in the second half and finished with a 17-9 (10-2 on frame) shot advantage.
Montano’s second goal was assisted by Brandon Landwehr on a breakaway. Eight minutes later, Montano caught the East Union defense flat footed after Ramon Rodriguez sent a long ball from the defensive third. The ball bounced once and was buried by a strong half-volley strike from Montano.
The second half of VOL play kicks off Thursday with East Union hosting Sonora and Manteca looking to avenge its lone loss to Oakdale.
“This is probably the toughest I’ve seen the VOL,” Coenenberg said. “We’re happy with 6-1 but we’re not happy with the way we played against Oakdale the first time. We have them again Thursday at their place (which) makes it a little more difficult but I think my guys are up for it.”
Lathrop 2, Kimball 1
The Spartans (1-4-2, 7-7-2) picked up their first VOL win of the season, getting early goals from Kevin Alvarez (eighth minute) and Vicente Lopez (19th, Daniel Lizcano assist). Coach Lenny Lial is hopeful that the early outburst shakes his team out of its offensive funk after it was held scoreless for five straight games.
On the other end of the pitch Lathrop played air-tight defense despite three starters being out with injuries and sickness but allowed one to get through on an own goal late in the contest.
“I thought we played OK, not great,” Lathrop coach Lenny Lial said. “We’re hoping to put forth a better effort, get on a roll and have some momentum for the second half (of league).”