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Ranch buries Lancers with 2nd-half rally
Weston Ranch forward Joseph Mayorca has the ball knocked away by East Union keeper Bryce Lew, but teammate Jose Espinoza would end up benefitting from the deflection in a 5-2 win for the Cougars on Monday. - photo by Photo By Sean Kahler

Weston Ranch beat East Union at its own game in a duel between the Valley Oak League’s hottest teams Monday at Dino Cunial Field.

Center midfielder Joseph Mayorca was moved to striker in the second half, and the speedy junior sparked a late flurry that led to a 5-2 win for first-place Weston Ranch. The Cougars (9-0 VOL, 16-5-3) did all of their damage in the second half.

Mayorca buried the go-ahead goal in the 71st minute, added another in the 73rd and aided Jose Espinoza’s score to cap the onslaught in the 77th. The Cougars 

Gerardo Romero scored one and assisted another for East Union (5-3-1, 7-3-2), which had a three-game winning streak snapped while dropping to fourth place in the standings. It is usually the quick-striking Lancers who pressure defenses into making mistakes, but on Monday it was the Cougars who pounced once East Union began to show cracks in its armor. 

“I feel very comfortable playing up top,” said Mayorca, a center attacking midfielder who added two more goals to his team-high total of 23. “I know I can take them with my speed and I know my teammates will get the ball to me at anytime.”

Mayorca’s speed and hustle gave Weston Ranch the lead for good. He intercepted a pass on East Union’s defensive third and sidestepped a defender before unleashing a powerful strike.

Minutes later, Mayorca took a feed from Hector Maldonado near midfield and let his skills and instincts take over as he dribbled past three defenders on a one-man breakaway. He nearly posted a hat trick on a 1-on-1 opportunity but had it knocked away from his feet by East Union keeper Bryce Lew. Espinoza was there on the deflection to score the easiest goal of the night.

Up until that point, goals were hard to come by for Weston Ranch, which trailed 1-0 through 55 minutes of play. 

In the 39th minute, Gustavo Vazquez timed a diagonal through ball to the fleet-of-foot Romero, who jolted behind the Weston Ranch defense to give East Union its first-half lead.

East Union’s defense clamped down on the Weston Ranch attack for much of the first half and had some big plays in the back from Humberto Andrade and Lew (seven saves).

“At halftime we talked about doing what got us here,” Weston Ranch coach Francisco Cisneros said. “I thought we had a few chances in the first half, we just didn’t capitalize. I told them to not get frustrated and to pick their spots.”

Weston Ranch finally broke through in the 57th minute. After going 0-for-4 on corner kicks in the opening half, the Cougars got the equalizer on their fifth attempt as defender Miguel Morales headed in Kevin Medina’s cross. Lew was able to get his mitts on the ball but collided with a defender on the near post.

Weston Ranch took its first lead in the 60th minute on Maldonado’s penalty kick. Medina was taken down by a hard challenge from behind to grant the PK.

“We held them for about 60 minutes,” East Union coach Victor Polanco said, “but then they scored on our mistakes.”

East Union recaptured some of its earlier momentum with the tying goal in the 65th minute. Lino Cerda connected on a header off Romero’s long-distance free kick.

Weston Ranch dominated much of the second half, attempting15 of its 29 overall shots including 11 on goal. East Union took 13 shots but had several other opportunities on dangerous crosses into the goal area.

“Being down 1-0 at their house, I thought our guys showed a lot of character,” Cisneros said. “Momentum was on their side, but we stepped it up in the second half and kept coming.”