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Hernandez, Kron help EU stay on top
East Union midfielder Jordan Kron gets a piece of the ball while Manteca High’s Robbie Geerlof attempts to send it toward the attacking third Monday at Dino Cunial Field. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin
At the midway point of the Valley Oak League boys soccer season, one team has emerged from what was expected to be a crowded race for the title as the frontrunner.

East Union, with its 4-1 win over fellow contender and visiting rival Manteca Monday at Dino Cunial Field, has everyone else in its rear-view mirror and is on pace to capture the program’s fifth league championship and first since 1993.

The Lancers remain two points ahead of Sierra (5-1-1), a 4-1 winner over Weston Ranch Monday, in the standings.

Jordan Kron led the Lancers (6-1, 8-3-2 overall) with three assists, two off throw-ins, and Eduardo Hernandez scored two goals in the second half.

“Every game means a lot, and our goal is to win VOL,” Kron said. “We’re one of the youngest teams in the league, so that would be something special.

“We came in here with a lot of enthusiasm. We thought that if we could finish off strong in the first half (of league) then we can start off just as strong in the second half.”

Kron assisted Miguel Barbosa’s head shot in the 11th minute with a nice cross to the left post. But 2 minutes later, Manteca (3-2-2, 6-7-3) struck with a blast from Giovanni Marin. Marin left the match with 20 minutes to go because of leg cramps.

It was back-and-forth from there as both teams traded blows until the final minute of the opening half, when Kron and the Lancers delivered the gut punch that took the wind out of Manteca.

Kron, who leads the team with 11 assists, rifled a throw-in from the right side and directed it to the far post, and Victor Garibay deflected it in.

“That one kind of hurt,” Manteca coach Justin Coenenberg said. “Those throw-ins gave us trouble. We knew about him, he had been giving everybody else trouble.

“That was a huge momentum swing. You could just tell that as soon as they took the field (in the second half) they were ready to go.”

In the second minute of the second half, Hernandez netted his first goal off a centered cross from Francisco Tapia — and this one was for the highlight reel. Hernandez first controlled the pass by bouncing it straight up into the air, and in the same motion he turned his back toward a Manteca defender and the Buffalo goal before knocking it in with a textbook bicycle kick.

“That was beautiful,” said Kron.

Kron then connected with Hernandez 4 minutes later with yet another throw-in. Hernandez’s initial header attempt missed, but the ball conveniently settled between him and goalie Phillip Herrera (two saves) for an easy 1-on-1.

Kron ended up hurting his left knee in the final minute of the match.

East Union had 15 shots to Manteca’s 10 but had a decisive 5-1 edge on on-target attempts.

East Union opens the second half of VOL play Wednesday at Lathrop, while Manteca hosts first-year varsity Kimball.

“One loss could change everything around,” EU co-head coach Clarence Goes said. “Anything could happen; it’s still a close race.”

East Union 2, Manteca 2
The Buffaloes (4-1-2) came back from an early deficit to take their only lead with Eduardo Alvarado and Erick Alvarado each assisting each other’s goals.

East Union (6-0-1) had a chance to answer with the equalizer but missed a penalty-kick attempt after the Manteca keeper was booked for a red card. With Manteca down a player, EU took advantage in the second half by scoring the tying goal.