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Sierra dominates VOLs first-place team
Sierra High’s Erick Noriega delivers a point-blank shot that is deflected by East Union keeper Alfredo Solorzano in the first half of Monday’s pivotal Valley Oak League match at Dino Cunial Field. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin
rra High coach Jose Montes is rolling with a new formation that forces his players to play ball-control soccer on the attacking third rather than having one or two try to do it themselves.

“To be honest with you, I don’t have any strikers — I have five midfielders,” he said. “I have to make sure they share the ball. We had to change some things around, and I think this format works for them.”

Considering how the Timberwolves have been performing of late, it just may stick for the rest of the season.

Sierra had three different players score in a one-sided 3-1 victory Monday over host East Union, the Valley Oak League’s first-place team.

It was a contest that, possession-wise, was dominated by Sierra (6-1-2, 13-6-3 overall), which unleashed 20 shots to just nine for an otherwise dangerous East Union (7-2, 9-4-2) offense.

Dominic Alejandre (4th minute), reserve Joel Boling (49th minute) and Erick Noriega (54th minute) each scored. East Union’s Ruben Aguilar blasted a 40-yard goal with 3 minutes remaining.

“We’re playing as a team — 11 players, all out,” Noriega said.

Sierra has taken two out of three from EU after beating the Lancers 3-0 in its own tournament Oct. 4. In their first VOL meeting, EU climbed back from a one-goal halftime deficit to prevail, 2-1.

Sierra now trails the conference leaders by a point in the VOL standings with five regular-season matches to go.

“You have to respect what East Union has been doing,” Montes said. “To be on top of the VOL is no joke, and they’re still on top.

“This just put us a little bit closer to where we want to be, we just have to take care of what we have to do.”

East Union failed to get control early and struggled to keep up with Sierra’s pace throughout. Ricardo Perez had a chance to put the Lancers ahead in the second minute after stripping the ball free from a defender, but his one-on-one opportunity culminated in a wide shot that sailed harmlessly passed Sierra goalkeeper Armando Gonzalez (3 saves) and the right post.

 Two minutes later, Sierra cashed in on its first attempt. Jose Acosta delivered a free kick from about 25 yards out, and East Union keeper Alfredo Solorzano (5 saves) deflected it toward three Timberwolf attackers. Alejandre was the first to get there, as he pushed it toward the left panel.

“They pretty much had us in control,” East Union coach Clarence Goes said. “We were always one step behind in this game. When they scored that first goal the defense was just ball watching. It deflected off the keeper and everyone just stood and looked.”

Things only got worse for EU moments after Boling knocked in Sierra’s second goal, a high-arching shot from the left side that caromed off the right post, early in the second half.

East Union’s center midfielder and assist leader Jordan Kron, already nursing a sore left knee, collided with Aaron Montes while going after a 50-50 ball during the 52nd minute.

Writhing in pain from an apparent injury to his right ankle, Kron was helped off the field by teammates Miguel Barbosa and Joshua Bonds. A scary scene later developed on East Union’s sideline as Kron’s body went into shock. Paramedics arrived and administered first-aid treatment before taking him to a hospital with 11 minutes left in the match.

“I think it took a lot out of them,” Goes said of Kron’s injury and its effect on the players.