Merced High School’s Francisco Rodriguez and Jose Alvarado put their heads together in a mini-huddle while the referee sorted out the Golden Valley wall.
The pair didn’t have much time to work out a plan of attack for the Bears’ free kick just left of the 18-yard box, but the one they devised was sound. Rodriguez drove an in-swinging cross to the near post that Alvarado chested into the net.
It was that kind of afternoon for Rodriguez. The kid they call “Maza,” after the pro player who shares his name, had a hand in Merced’s first four goals. The senior midfielder finished with a goal and two assists, and the Bears closed the second leg of Central California Conference play with a 5-0 thrashing of rival Golden Valley.
The victory keeps Merced (14-3-3 overall, 7-1-2 CCC) within two points of first-place Atwater with five games to play.
“I just told Jose to run to the near post and I’d hit him,” Rodriguez said of the opening goal 10 minutes in. “It was big for us. Whenever we can get an early goal and get some chemistry going, we play with a lot more confidence.”
That’s something that certainly wasn’t lacking Tuesday as Merced built a commanding 4-0 lead at the half.
Rodriguez helped make it 2-0 in the 22nd minute when he drew three Golden Valley defenders to him at the top of the 18-yard box. Rodriguez’s shot was blocked but deflected into the path of an unmarked Alfred Flores, who settled the ball and finished to the far post.
That sparked a run of three goals in 11 minutes as the Bears looked to finish the Cougars (7-11-1, 3-6-1 CCC) before the break.
A quick free kick by Rodriguez sprung Eric Figureoa free for a goal down the left wing in the 25th minute, and Rodriguez dribbled in from 25 yards out on an intercepted pass in the 33rd minute.
“We did a really nice job defensively even with Adrian (Lomeli) out,” Merced coach Bart McAfee said. “We did what we had to do. We got the early lead, built on it and controlled the ball.”
This text m the feature file
testing that in CTA section param info supersedes the configuration in the feature filesubscribe test!
After almost squandering a 4-0 lead against Pitman the week before, McAfee’s halftime speech warned his squad not to ease up.
It wasn’t an issue.
Omar Cortez caught Golden Valley goalkeeper Toby Osborne off of his line just two minutes into the second half. A failed Osborne clearance landed at Cortez’s feet, and the senior midfielder looped a ball into the empty net from 35 yards out to all but finish the game.
“That wasn’t our best performance,” Cougars coach Lance Eber said. “We came out not focused and weren’t determined to put some balls in the back of the net.
“The good news is, we’re still right there in the mix for the last two playoff spots. We just can’t seem to seize our opportunities right now.”
Atwater 6, Buhach Colony 2 at Atwater – Eduardo Cebrero and Brandon Alvarez scored twice each as the Falcons (18-2-2, 8-1-1 CCC) cooled a streaking Thunder squad with a convincing victory at Falcon Field.
Jose Ramirez and Salvador Davalos scored for Buhach Colony (6-10-5, 2-7-1).