Golden Valley still rules roost

MERCED -- Lee Shaw is the first to warn soccer fans headed to a Golden Valley home match: Wear your work boots -- and a hard hat if you got one.

The athletic fields east of campus have become a quarry pit since construction began on the football stadium earlier this month.

Mounds of dirt and trenches rise and fall where green grass used to grow.

On Tuesday, on the only undisturbed plot, Golden Valley sought out to bury its only conference loss in one of those nearby piles of sand and rubble.

It never happened.

Instead, Golden Valley found itself rallying in the closing minutes, salvaging a 2-2 tie thanks to Adan Beccera's tip-in goal in the 76th minute.

The draw keeps Golden Valley (4-1-1) atop the Central California Conference table, still two points clear of Buhach Colony (3-1-2), which hoped to build on its miracle win in their first meeting.

On Sept. 9, Buhach Colony pulled off an improbable 4-3 victory, netting four goals in the final five minutes of play, stunning Golden Valley.

This time, BC was victimized late, wasting an opportunity to leapfrog Golden Valley into first place.

Beccera came on late in the second half for standout striker Matt Hubbard (flu) and scored on a loose ball in front of the goal.

"To be honest," Buhach coach Josh Newton said, "that's what you expect from the top two teams in league, to come out with a tie.

"We've got to forget about this one. We can't keep thinking about that one goal and what it cost us."

Afterward, Shaw wore a look of relief. His team dodged a bullet.

"That was probably our worst performance of the season in the first half. Just terrible," Shaw said. "I told the guys, it doesn't matter how good you are. If you're not going to do the work, you're not going to win games. Not in this league."

Golden Valley began the game slow and stagnant, unable to link together combination plays.

Meanwhile, Buhach Colony played with the same confidence it showed in the final minutes of its first meeting.

Twice BC put Golden Valley on its heels, grabbing leads in the 23rd and 67th minutes.

Fabrizio Chavez redirected a Tanner Gleason cross with his head, flicking the ball past goalie Gabe Jimenez (two saves) for a 1-0 cushion.

Gleason set up the goal in more ways than one.

His low, well-driven shot from the edge of the penalty box created a cornerkick, which was hit long.

The Seattle Pacific-bound senior chased down the ball and quickly flipped a cross over his shoulder to Chavez.

Golden Valley answered eight minutes later when reserve forward Ricky Cabrera wrestled the ball away from the Buhach Colony defense and poked a shot into the far side-netting.

Momentum belonged to Golden Valley in the final 40 minutes, but Buhach Colony capitalized on its only second-half shot.

Jorge Torres split two defenders -- brothers Edgar and Alex Segura -- and whipped a knee-high cross to the back post.

Roberto Torres never broke stride, volleying the ball into a wide open net for a 2-1 lead in the 67th minute.

Victory seemed certain, especially with Golden Valley's top playmakers -- starting forwards Hubbard and Jose Hernandez (fatigue) -- on the bench.

Beccera filled in nicely, crashing on a loose ball that no one in a Buhach jersey seemed to want.

"It was a communication breakdown," Newton said. "They each thought the other guy was going to step up and neither one did. You can't be the kid in the hall, watching the play like that."

It was an ugly, unbearably hot and unsatisfying tie, but Shaw will take it.

"At half, if you told me we'd get of this game with a tie, I would have taken it and jumped straight on the bus," Shaw said.

"Taking this point was important," he later added. "That could be the most important point for us. We just have to learn we can't keep playing like that."