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SOCCER: Panthers pounce on improved Lathrop with 4 goals in 2nd half
Pacheco-Lathrop boys soccer
Hector Arrivillaga leads the counter-attack for Lathrop ahead of Andrew Osorio of visiting Pacheco on Wednesday. - photo by Wayne Thallander

The better team undoubtedly won Wednesday night at Bennie Gatto Field where visiting Pacheco scored all of its goals in the second half of a 4-0 win over Lathrop.

The Panthers from Los Banos won by the same score the last time these two met in Western Athletic Conference play on Jan. 3, but the result isn’t the focus for Lathrop coach Alfredo Reynaga. What matters more to him is the improvement his young Spartans (3-5-1 WAC, 5-10-4 overall) have made since that last go-around.

In that first matchup, Pacheco (5-2, 8-3) dominated from the start and built a comfortable three-goal lead by halftime. In the rematch, it was scoreless at the break and the game did not get away from Lathrop until the final 10 minutes.

“Anytime you lose it’s tough, but at the same time you have to look at the positives,” Reynaga said. “The positive out of this game is they had a lot of combination play on the defensive the third and the attacking third. That is a huge plus for where the program is going, we just have to keep at it.”

The opposing coach even took notice of the strides the Spartans are making. Although the Panthers certainly had their share of chances to take the lead earlier in the game with diagonal long balls and dangerous shots from distance, Lathrop — even with its starting goalkeeper out — didn’t make it easy.

Pacheco had four different goal scorers: Jimmy Perkins (46th minute), Vincent Rojas (62nd minute), Axel Aguirre (72nd minute) and Jake Perkins (23rd minute).

“We’re happy to get the result,” Pacheco coach Michael Perkins said. “Lathrop is much improved, and Alfredo is doing a great job of building the program — he has some young guys up. It’s certainly not ‘show up and get an automatic win here.’ You have to put in the work and they make you work for it.

It was good for us. We haven’t been on the field for two weeks for different (reasons) and I’m happy with this performance because this team has been up and down. Even though it was going into the net in the first half they showed a level of consistency that we strive for.”

Pacheco had an overwhelming 23-7 advantage in shot attempts, firing 16 of them in the second half. Reserve goalie Estevan Guzman did well in place of freshman Josue Navarro between the posts, racking up 13 saves.

“This is the first game he has played and I think he stepped up, just gave up a few unlucky goals,” Reynaga said. “Not taking credit away from (Pacheco), they’re of course a really good team, but we probably could have stopped at least two of them.”

Pacheco’s second goal was the backbreaker for the Spartans.

Just moments prior, Lathrop had its most threatening stretch of the match and was capped by Anthony Gonzales’ near-miss header on a corner kick.

Pacheco managed to escape unscathed and recaptured the momentum shortly after. With Lathrop now on the defensive, a poor clearance teed up an open look for Rojas to double the lead from about 45 yards out.

“We had them on their heels,” Reynaga said. “I saw the frustration on their defense and that was the time to keep pushing. We couldn’t take advantage of that.”

On Pacheco’s final tally, Guzman deflected a point-blank shot from Allieu Kondoh but presented Jake Perkins with an open-net goal on the rebound.

It was a match Lathrop needed to win to stay in a good position for one of three postseason berths. The Spartans have had competitive matches against their final five opponents in the regular season. They next head to Beyer on Friday.

“Every game for the rest of the season in winnable,” Reynaga said. “If we can finish out the season with some fight, I think we can come away with some satisfaction.”