In a game that lacked offensive creativity in the attacking third, Atwater freshman Gerardo Delgadillo had a Mozart-esque moment of brilliance Thursday afternoon.
While the Falcons’ striker didn’t compose a symphony, his audacious shot in the 56th minute was rewarded with the decisive goal in a 2-1 victory over Pitman.
The play began when Delgadillo received a harmless-looking pass at the top-left corner of the Pride’s 18-yard box. He caught most of the Falcon Field pitch by surprise when he spun and one-timed a high, curling shot into the upper 90 of the far post, helping keep Atwater (16-1-2, 6-0-1) undefeated in Central California Conference play.
“We told the kids at halftime that their goalkeeper appeared to have a lot of confidence in his defense, because he was playing way off of his line,” Falcons coach Jimmy Brewer said. “We told them if they had a chance to pick their heads up, to try to challenge him with some high shots.
“We weren’t really able to send any in from distance, but Gerardo was able to beat him with one. The shot was a thing of beauty.”
The goal proved a pivotal moment in the outcome as Pitman didn’t fold after falling behind 2-0.
The Pride (8-5-4, 3-2-2) pulled one back in the 66th minute when Braymn Navarette was fouled in the penalty area. Ricky Ramirez stepped up and slid a shot under the diving effort of Atwater goalkeeper Mario Chavez, trimming the lead to 2-1.
It was the only shot to really bother Chavez (three saves) all afternoon.
Both teams did a good job of using Falcon Field’s width and building up their attacks with a quick passing game, but there was a disconnect in the final third of the field.
The final pass was often too heavy, allowing the defenses or goalkeepers to easily gobble up balls. When the passes did find their intended targets, the shots were generally weak or off the mark.
“I thought they did the better job of executing the style of game they want to play,” Brewer said. “We weren’t very sharp with our passing. A lot of our chances came from balls over the top.
“It’s no secret that we’ve scored the bulk of our goals on set pieces or on the counter. We just haven’t been as effective in the regular run of play.”
An Atwater set piece finally opened the scoring in the 33rd minute, thanks to a little confusion with the referee.
Pitman believed a whistle would restart play after the referee told the Pride wall to move back on a Falcons free kick 33 yards out. Junior midfielder Brandon Alvarez took advantage, firing a shot into the open net as Pitman goalkeeper Jesus Nunez (four saves) was setting up his wall.
The Falcons doubled their lead 16 minutes after the break when Alvarez dropped a pass off to Delgadillo.
“I looked real quick before I shot it and saw the goalie was out,” Delgadillo said. “Brandon passed it to me and I just let it go. I knew it was in as soon as I kicked it.”
Merced 2, Turlock 2 at Turlock – Francisco Rodriguez and Eric Figueroa both scored as Merced rallied from a two-goal halftime deficit to earn a draw with the Bullodgs.
Assad Dohail had five saves for the Bears (11-3-3, 4-1-2 CCC), who are five points behind Atwater in the league standings.
Golden Valley 5, Buhach Colony 2 – Edgar Vega scored twice and Alexis Orozco had two assists as the Cougars (7-8-1, 3-3-1 CCC) pulled within a point of Pitman for third place in the league standings.
Leo Del Toro found the back of the net twice in a losing effort for the Thunder (0-6-1 CCC).
Le Grand 3, Mariposa 1 at Mariposa – Sergio Garcia capped off a big week by scoring two goals and assisting on a third in a win for the Bulldogs (3-3 SL).
Dillon Acker-James scored for Mariposa.