Trailing 2-1 with only five minutes to play, Hornet’s forward Brian Pacheco had a loose ball find his feet in the penalty area, and he made no mistake beating the Rustler goalkeeper to level up the game.
Fullerton’s best chance to win happened moments later when the ball found Hornet midfielder Matthew Lares, who sent in a cross that was deflected into the path of Pacheco who beat the goalkeeper but not the post.
“I was fortunate enough to have the ball fall right to me in a good spot, so I looked up, saw my spot and finished,” said Pacheco. “When I saw the ball coming in the air I figured, why not have a shot? It’s what I do in practice, but I was unlucky to hit the post. I’ll get it next time.”
The Hornets opened the scoring just 10 minutes into the game when a long cross found defender Ronnie Cruz, who calmly volleyed the ball into the top corner of the net.
Fullerton entered the half up 1-0, looking to upset the defending conference champions.
Golden West showed their champions mentality and came out on the front foot to start the second half.
Rustler midfielder Mark Hernandez found the back of the net twice in the first 15 minutes of the second half. The first came at the end of a counter attack when a cross beat the Hornet defense and fell right to Hernandez for an easy finish. The second came in spectacular fashion when Hernandez beat a Hornet defender and hit a shot in the net from 25 yards out.
The second half was your typical conference game between two teams that know each other. It saw players on the ground stopping the run of play and arguing calls with the referee. The game featured almost as many red cards as goals. The Rustlers saw the first red and not to be out done, Fullerton saw two of their own.
Fullerton head coach Alex Perez had a look of disgust after his team not only gave up the lead but now were playing with only nine players in an all-important conference game.
“We told the boys at half this team has one guy that can hurt us. Keep the ball away from him and mark up tight, and we saw what happened when they didn’t,” said Perez. “We knew after the first red that Golden West was going to try to get under our skin. We tried to tell our players to keep their composure and again, we fell into their trap.”
In a game that saw both teams get their fair share of chances, Fullerton goalkeeper Juan Carlos Ramirez showed why he is the Hornets number one choice in the net. Ramirez’s impressive performance ended with eight saves.
Fullerton (0-1-2) will travel to Cypress (0-2) for their next conference game Friday, Oct. 9 at 3 p.m.