No matter the angle or the distance, Weston Ranch’s goal-hungry attackers took turns firing away at the Sierra goal during a first-place Valley Oak League showdown Friday at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium.
The visiting Cougars came away with a 3-2 victory and sole possession of first place at the midway point of the league schedule.
Weston Ranch (5-0-1 VOL, 15-3-3 overall) could have won by a wider margin with its 23-9 advantage in shot attempts — 12-6 on frame. The goal of the night came off the right foot of Alexis Chavez, whose impressive, volleyed blast from the top of the penalty box pushed the Cougars ahead for good at 2-1 in the 51st minute.
“Luckily, we have like four or five guys who can definitely hurt you if you give them space,” Weston Ranch coach Francisco Cisneros said. “We can score in bunches. We tell them if you don’t shoot, you’re not going to score, and they’re not going to shy away from distance.”
Defensive midfielder Sergio Garcia had multiple close calls from long range. Chavez could have had two goals but had one try deflected away from diving goalkeeper Anthony Ayala late in the first half. Ayala finished his busy night with nine saves.
Josemaria Barrera used a bit more finesse on his ice-breaking tally in the 10th minute, drilling a low-rolling shot from about 25 yards out to the lower-left corner of the net. He later helped give the Cougars a needed two-goal cushion, feeding Armando Montes on a breakaway in the 72nd minute.
“We were giving them too much time in the midfield for them to set up their shots,” Sierra coach Joe Pires said. “We knew they had scored a lot of goals and they have a lot of speed. With us not having some new players at different positions, we just didn’t close the gaps fast enough. Fortunately, our keeper was there (to stop) a lot of those.”
On their heels for much of the first half, the Timberwolves (5-1, 11-2-1) received a boost thanks to Ezana Ghezae’s equalizer in the 38th minute. The scoring sequence was set up by defender Adam Montero’s free kick, which nearly assisted a headed goal from Jorge Reyes. The initial shot bounced off the right post, and after a short scramble for the loose ball in front of the goal box Ghezae was able to put it away.
Sierra was unable to carry the momentum into the second half, however. It did not score again until the 79th minute when Reyes converted a penalty kick that was awarded because of a handball.
The Timberwolves’ opportunities were few and far between. Audie Garza, their leading scorer for the season, had two great looks in the 15th minute and was denied on both shots. His first was a flick past charging goalkeeper Marcos Arriaza (three saves), but left back Jaime Arreola got there in time to clear it off the line. Garza was again thwarted seconds later as Arriaza pushed the shot wide of the goal.
“We did pretty well as a team, just had a couple breakdowns,” Pires said, noting that he was missing three starters. “You have to give (credit) to the other team for taking advantage. We had some opportunities that we couldn’t capitalize. I thought we were OK in the first half, but we just couldn’t get it going in the second half. We were flat and could not keep the ball. It’s a combination of that and not having guys who are basically the glue on the team.”
Weston Ranch is also down some key contributors but managed to pull out a deserved win. Although they did not end up on the score sheet, outside midfielder Aaron Silva and striker Angel Zapata were in on several dangerous runs because of their creativity and speed on the ball.
“I think tonight we performed well against a tough, well-coached and well-organized team,” Cisneros said. “They gave us trouble and were physical, but our guys responded well. In the second half, we were more aggressive and able to connect a little bit better. Getting three points at their place is huge. I’ve been happy with all facets of the game, so far. We’ll work to get better game by game, because it’s going to be tough the rest of the season. There are no easy games in the VOL.”
Sierra 3, Weston Ranch 2
Down two goals, Sierra came back to score three unanswered for the win. Anthony Napoles led the charge with two goals, while Diego Lopez had one.