Even when the game tilted Great Bend’s way for a half, Panther coach Jesus Loera felt the advantage might be enough against a talented Garden City team.
Loera’s instincts proved accurate when Garden City scored a pair of second-half goals to escape with a hard-fought 3-2 Western Athletic Conference soccer victory Thursday at Cavanaugh Field. Danny Franco converted both Great Bend goals.
The Buffaloes converted both goals off perfect centering passes in the scoring area. Jesus Macias fed Kevin Benitiez with a perfect pass for a goal past first-time goalie Joshua Rodriguez.
Garden City’s Salvador Bustos set up the game-winner with a pinpoint pass to teammate Brian Carrera at the 17:18 mark of the second half.
The loss dropped Great Bend (7-4-1) to 3-3 in league play and helped Garden City avenge a 3-0 home loss. The Panthers have lost three of WAC home games.
“Garden City played well, better than they did the first time. We definitely give Garden City a lot of credit,” Loera said. “I certainly believe we could have won this game. You’ve got to play effectively with and against the wind and we didn’t our best either way. We have a young group and sometimes you have to learn the hard way.”
Loera said the Panthers must learn to possess the ball more effectively to take advantage of their teamwork.
“Hopefully, we can take this experience forward and do better the next time,’ he said. “With the wind, I would like to possess the ball more than we did. We pushed the ball too far forward and sent our guys on runs and burned them out. We ran into the wind the second half. Coming out of halftime, we possessed the ball better.”
The Panthers held the advantage behind a 35 mph northwest wind the first half.
Danny Franco used the northwest wind to twist a shot past Garden City goalie Kender Acevedo 29 seconds.
Pesky Garden City executed a strong game to control much of the first half, using a mix of short passes and ball handling.
The Buffaloes’ pressure paid off when Jose Herrera converted a pass by Brian Carrera at the 22:23 mark.
But Danny Franco blasted a low shot past Acevedo at the 10:16 mark of the first half for a 2-1 halftime lead.
“I wasn’t comfortable with a 2-1 lead,” Loera said. “They picked it up the second half. The way they were attacking, I knew we had to keep scoring to win this game.”
Loera said the Panthers must also sharpen their mental focus to play their best soccer.