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Lane United End the 2016 Season With a Tough Loss at Home

July 15, 2016
Lane United FC’s 2016 season ended on a disappointing note with a 3-0 loss to the visiting Washington Crossfire. In front of a crowd of 519 at Papé Field in Eugene—instead of the usual Willamalane Center in Springfield—Lane United controlled the opening 20 minutes of the match while nonetheless failing to produce any clear-cut chances. The balance momentarily evened out before the Crossfire’s Alex Roldan scored the best goal that local fans have witnessed all season, tucking a 35-yard stunner in off the post, to put his team in the lead in the 33rd minute. The visitors doubled their advantage ten minutes later through Matt Poplawski, and the Reds never mounted a serious challenge in the second half until squandering a few late chances with the game well out of reach at 3-0 thanks to Cam Rohani’s 84th-minute penalty.

 

“We couldn’t score,” said Lane United head coach John Galas, “and it’s indicative of our problems all season.” Anyone watching the opening 10 minutes of the match, however, would have bet on the Reds getting at least a goal or two, so swiftly did they fly out of the gates. Joel Rydstrand was wrongly judged offside on what would have been a breakaway after only two minutes, then a few minutes later Casey ChubbFertal came an inch or two away from setting up Isma Fernández with a 1v1 against the Crossfire goalkeeper with an overhit defense-splitting pass. Riggs Lennon got a promising header on frame in the meantime, and with the Reds in complete control of possession, more chances and perhaps a goal seemed imminent. In actuality, none would be forthcoming. The Crossfire were the first to generate a real scoring chance, when in the 22nd minute Stephen MacDonald was chipped in behind the defense and forced Lane United’s Luis Barraza into a brilliant low reaction save with his hands, from only about 12 yards. Roldan then opened the scoring ten minutes later, first making a smart interception in midfield, then striding forward and curling a 35-yard shot that could not have been better placed, bouncing into Barraza’s net off the top twelve inches of the right goalpost. “We had a great opening 20 minutes,” Galas said, “but we couldn’t convert anything into a goal, and then we made a sloppy turnover and fell behind to a great goal from one of their guys. That’s the way it goes if you don’t create and convert chances.”

 

Lane United’s Lennon almost produced the perfect response a moment later, barging straight through the center of the Crossfire defense and shooting just over the bar from 20 yards, but the Reds fell victim to a second Washington goal soon after. Poplawski received an entry pass near the top of the box, and his first touch and an impressive burst of pace allowed him to get by the long-legged but not especially fleet-footed Stefan Tomasevic. The other center-half, Jonathan Stadler, who excelled the entire match and indeed most of the season, could not get across in time and the Washington striker pounded a close-range effort past a helpless Barraza. Lane United went into halftime down 2-0, and were lucky not to escape further damage soon after the interval, with Poplawski missing Michael Roberts with what ought to have been a back-post tap-in, and then seeing his breakaway shot from inside the penalty box stuffed by an exceptional Barraza save. Lane United almost got back into the match soon after, an awkward stooping header from Isma forcing a desperate clawing save from Saif Kerawala in the Crossfire goal, but as the half wore on they weathered several more Crossfire chances before finally conceding the third goal, when a stranded Stadler had little choice but to foul the substitute forward Gaby Joseph before he shot, and Rohani stepped up to roof an unstoppable penalty. Lennon had missed the goalframe with a free header from inside the six-yard box prior to the third Crossfire goal, and the substitute Alberto Cobos missed an even better chance to pull one back for the Reds a few minutes after it, when he met a cross unmarked at the penalty spot and dribbled it tamely at Kerawala. Jose Carlos Terron was sent off in stoppage time for two yellow cards accumulated in quick succession—the third time in the past two seasons that that exact fate has befallen a Lane United player against the Crossfire—but it hardly affected matters. The final whistle blew on the season with Lane United in fourth place in the PDL Northwest Division, although both the Victoria Highlanders and Kitsap Pumas could eclipse their position with wins in their respective final games on Sunday.

 

“I’m proud of the effort from the guys all season long,” Galas said. “This is the most talented group of players we’ve had yet, and I can’t fault them for the way they’ve gone about their business this year. The fans have been tremendous all season and I know I speak for all the players and everyone at the club when I say thank you to them, for such incredible support.”

Lane United Ties Washington Crossfire 1-1 on the Road

July 6, 2016

Lane United FC drew the Washington Crossfire 1-1 in Redmond, WA on Tuesday night in a match that never strayed far from excitement, for the right and the wrong reasons from a Lane United standpoint. The Reds scored in the third minute through Riggs Lennon but by halftime had only the gods to thank that the Crossfire did not convert one of their dozen or so chances to equalize. When Michael Bajza was harshly sent off for two bookable offenses in quick succession in the 41st minute, the second-half task became clearer—sit back and repel Crossfire attacks, and it nearly worked, but for Junior Sanchez’s excellently taken goal in the 68th minute. Stoppage time featured another red card, for a horror tackle by the Crossfire’s Nathan Aune on Daley Stevens, and then gilt-edged chances at each end as both teams threw caution to the wind in search of a winner. The beleaguered referee Seth Martin’s final whistle blew after a match-saving slide tackle from Daley Stevens to deny a Crossfire breakaway, and the result leaves both clubs still tied for third in the PDL Northwest Division, the Reds with a game in hand.

The match had barely sputtered into life before Lennon gave Lane United an early advantage; he had already thrown himself in front of a clearance by the Crossfire goalkeeper, Saif Kerawala, and deflected the ball into touch, but that was apparently not enough warning to the Crossfire back line, as he pressured the center-half Aune into a poor backpass in the next passage of play. The recent Creighton transfer latched onto it and with minimum fuss slotted it under the keeper for an early 1-0 lead. However, the Reds proceeded to play the next half-hour in a state of unprecedented disorganization, with massive gaps appearing all over midfield, possession only in fleeting moments, and the back line unable to handle the tremendous pace of the Crossfire forward Simon Lekressner and left winger J.T. Townsend. Those two created—and squandered—a handful of chances apiece over the remainder of the half, frequently missing the target or occasionally forcing Lane United’s Ben Willis into an easier save than ought to have been required. Willis did produce one moment of goalkeeping brilliance, though, denying Danny Gavin at full stretch on a free kick from 22 yards, which was about five yards advanced from where the initial foul, from Michael Bajza had taken place. That foul earned him his first, and thoroughly deserved, yellow card, but the second one, which came only a few minutes later, was considerably harsher. The referee, Martin, felt that Bazja’s high-footed nick of a Crossfire player was worthy of a second booking, but given the mild force and speed of the challenge, as well as the fact that it was only fractionally late and 50 yards from goal, it was not clear that it deserved a second caution. It was almost a carbon-copy of events from last year in this fixture, when the Reds’ Jordan Jones was sent off, also late in the first half, for two back-to-back yellow cards; in that match, Lane United collapsed and shipped three goals in the second half, but this year the response from the Reds was significantly more mature.

The Reds came out for the second half with Armando Filho and Isma Fernández having been replaced by Dillon Nino and Jose Carlos Terron, respectively, to create an overtly defensive 4-4-1 formation, with only Ricky Lopez-Espin in an advanced role. The move paid off for awhile, too, with the Crossfire’s chances mostly limited to long shots that did not remotely trouble Willis in goal. In the 65th minute, though, the defense was broken open by the Crossfire fullback Junior Sanchez beating his counterpart Akeem Ward down the left wing and firing just over the bar from a good position on the left side of the box. And Sanchez was more clinical three minutes later, placing a low 25-yard shot in the minuscule window between Willis’ sprawling hand and the left-hand post; it was an equalizer born from the only bit of quality finishing that the Crossfire displayed all match.

The status quo, with the Reds holding the Crossfire at arm’s length well away from goal, was maintained for the next quarter of an hour but with five minutes left to play the balance suddenly shifted. The 86th minute saw Lane United’s first effort on goal in the entire second half, a harmless wide shot by Stevens, but the floodgates opened right afterward. With the Crossfire suddenly at sea, Riggs Lennon slammed a low volley from 18 yards to force a diving save out of Kerawala, then Stevens was scythed down by Aune flying in at full speed, legs extended and studs showing—the type of tackle that results in grisly injuries if the tackler happens to connect. That challenge earned the Crossfire man a straight red card, and from the ensuing free kick, Lennon was inches away from scoring the PDL goal of the season, slamming a 35-yard effort left-footed off the upper 90 of the goalframe. The Reds had chances to put away the rebound, but the ball was eventually cleared, and only a minute later Joel Rydstrand beat several defenders on the dribble before playing in Lennon—only for his close-range shot to be denied by a desperate sliding block from the last Crossfire defender. A goalmouth scramble ensued, which led to a corner; from Lennon’s first delivery, Reds players shouted in vain for a handball when a Crossfire defender awkwardly played the ball out over the goal line, leading to a second corner. From that delivery, someone on Lane United was whistled for jumping to head the ball in the vicinity of Kerawala, and that generous call almost gave Washington the game: Kerawala took the free kick quickly, and with all the Reds within 40 yards of the opposing penalty box, a Crossfire forward was onside at the halfway line. On his last legs, he charged forward toward the retreating Ben Willis, but Daley Stevens, recovering from at least 70 yards away deep in second half stoppage time, produced the tackle of the season to slide in and clear the ball into touch just as the forward was reaching the penalty box. It was the last meaningful action of the game.

Head coach John Galas said afterwards that he is “not sure why we can never end a match 11v11 against the Crossfire. I think our boys are disappointed with the result, but to play down a player for over 45 minutes was always going to be tough. I’m certainly pleased with the effort, the organization and commitment from the whole group tonight. We had to adjust tactically after the sending off, replacing Filho and Fernández, which was tough, but at the end of the day the changes we made played a big part in us almost stealing 3 points tonight. We have to stay positive, stay united and committed to the cause as we prepare for Kitsap. We still have a fighting chance to make the playoffs and we are without question going to give everything we have next match to keep the dream alive.” With FC Tucson looking increasingly likely to wrap up the automatic bye in the Western Conference playoffs, the Reds face a two-game road trip, at Kitsap Pumas on July 9 and Victoria Highlanders on July 11, and the last match of the regular season hosting the Crossfire at home, at Papé Field, on July 15, needing victories in all three to keep playoff hopes alive. With the way the PDL NW Division has unfolded thus far, nothing would be surprising. Stay tuned.

Lane United Record Tough Loss at Home to Timbers U-23s

June 30, 2016

Lane United FC lost at home 1-0 to the Portland Timbers U-23s in a match farcically affected by center referee Benjamin Warren failing to apply the technical laws of the game. The Reds have every reason to feel aggrieved by the developments starting in the 15th minute of the game, when they converted a penalty that was not ordered to be retaken, as the rules of the game state it must, when Warren apparently judged that Lane United players had encroached on the penalty box during the taking of the kick. Portland scored the go-ahead goal, and eventual match winner, late in the first half courtesy of a headed goal from their massive forward Tucker Hume, and Lane United were unable to produce an equalizer in the second half.

The match started with Lane United on the front foot, although no clear chances materialized in roughly the opening quarter of an hour. But at the fourteen-minute mark, a ludicrously mishandled series of events unfolded. Lane United’s Akeem Ward latched onto an underhit backpass from Portland’s Peter Prescott and raced in on goal, utterly alone but for the goalkeeper, Colin Partee. Ward attempted to round Partee and clearly would have done so successfully to tap into an empty net, but Partee brought him down with a foul. Warren whistled and pointed to the spot, but then inexplicably refused to send off Partee for denying the most obvious of goalscoring opportunities; according to Lane United head coach John Galas, Warren told LUFC captain Jon Stadler that he “didn’t want to kill the game by issuing a red card so early”—bizarre justification for failing to apply the clearly delineated rules of the game. But the rot was only just starting to surface there. Michael Bajza for Lane United stepped up to hit his first penalty and saw it saved, low and to the right, by Partee—however, the nearside assistant raised his flag to indicate that Partee had encroached off the goal line, and Warren ordered a retake of the kick. Bazja then stepped up and scored, to the left this time, only for Warren to wave it off and, instead of ordering another retake, gave Portland a direct free kick at the penalty spot.

Ward - Timbers 6:29Nothing about that decision has any basis in the FIFA Laws of the Game; there is no scenario by which a penalty kick can go in the goal, and the result can be a free kick to the defending team. After the game, one of the assistant referees suggested that the free kick (rather than a retake) had been awarded because of encroachment by Lane United, despite the fact that the Laws clearly state: “if a team-mate of the player taking the kick infringes the Laws of the Game, and if the ball enters the goal, the kick is retaken.” The fact that the assistant referee after the game was adamant—to the point of cutting off discussion—that encroachment by the attacking team results in a free kick to the defending team is indicative of a disgraceful standard of rules awareness in the entire crew. Another possibility is that Bajza was punished for stuttering during his run-up to the ball; again, the laws state that “feinting in the run-up to take a penalty kick to confuse opponents is permitted as part of football.” Feinting at the end of the run-up but before the kick, which Bazja did not do, is explicitly forbidden, and results in a caution for the offending player—and, crucially, a retake of the penalty. Bazja was not cautioned for anything during the penalty incident (he was a few minutes later, for dissent), and hence the only conclusion is that Warren woefully misapplied the rules, and to Lane United’s detriment.

The mistakes were so blatant that surely one of Warren’s three assistants should have corrected him before the game was restarted and Lane United lost their rightfully earned chance to convert a penalty kick. But that was not the case, and the match moved ahead, with Lane United clearly rattled by what Galas called “the worst refereeing performance I’ve ever seen in my life.” Portland began to assert an offensive authority not seen in the first two matches between the two teams this season, with several last-ditch blocks or clearances by Lane United’s center-halves, Stadler and Mitch LaGro, keeping the score level. In the 39th minute, Lane United produced their best chance since the penalty debacle when Isma Fernández, growing less hesitant with each passing game, cut inside his man on the left side of the box and struck a goalbound curler to the far post that Partee did excellently to stretch and get a hand to. Five minutes later, though, Portland had their goal, the product of a combination between the two mammoth Hume twins, Walker and Tucker. Walker, a center-half, made his way forward for a corner and easily won a header at the back post, directing it back across the face of goal for Tucker to nod in from only a yard or two out. Portland headed into the break riding the high of having snatched a lead right at the end of the half.

The second half, unfortunately from a Lane United perspective, did not produce the type of fightback that had taken place during the 3-3 draw between these two teams at Providence Park in May. In that match, the Reds fought back from 2-0 down at halftime, then 3-2 later, to snatch a dramatic stoppage-time equalizer through Daley Stevens. But chances to level the score in this match were scarce, thanks to a compact Timbers back line and a lack of the Reds’ typical fluid possession in midfield. Lane United’s typical cross-field balls to their advancing wing-backs were, more often than not, cut out by the opposite fullbacks, in particular Nicko DeVera on Portland’s left. The Timbers’ Sam Werner almost iced the whole affair when he slammed a thunderous effort off the crossbar in the 63rd minute, at which point the Reds had yet to see a good look at goal. Their best moment came in the 80th, when Jason Eng on the right wing finally found space for a low cross that Isma, taking it first-time in stride from 15 yards, could only hit at the goalkeeper, who parried comfortably. The substitute Riggs Lennon produced a superb save from a header just a minute later, but even had that effort gone in, it would have been disallowed for offside. That was, ultimately, Lane United’s last flurry of attacking activity, and Warren, probably desperate to escape, only added two minutes of stoppage time despite there having been 10 substitutions and four bookings (one for time-wasting) in the second half, as well as injuries which required attention from the physios.

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how bad the officiating was, we didn’t do enough to win,” Galas said. “We didn’t create enough chances and didn’t convert the ones we did take.” Some good news for the Reds did arrive later from Bremerton, Washington, where Northwest Division leaders Seattle Sounders fell to the Kitsap Pumas, 1-0—keeping the gap between Lane United and the leaders at eight points, with a game in hand for the Reds. They travel to Kitsap, Washington Crossfire and Victoria Highlanders—all below them in the current standings—in the coming two weeks before closing out the season at home at Papé Field against the Crossfire on July 15 at 7:00 pm.

Match Report: Lane United Tie Club Jalisco in Non-League Exhibition Match

June 24, 2016
Lane United FC drew 0-0 at home on Friday night with Club Jalisco, a side that plays in Springfield’s men’s league, Liga Unida. Boasting several former Reds as well as a few players from outside of the Eugene-Springfield area, Jalisco provided stout opposition. Last year, a similar exhibition match against a Liga Unida All-Star XI had been a breeze for the Reds, who won 8-0 at a jog, but this year’s local opponents were significantly better organized and refused to allow Lane United many clear looks at goal.

 

Lane United head coach John Galas said afterward that the result was “a great sign for grassroots soccer, and the quality of players in this area. Getting 500-plus people [the official attendance was announced as 525] out to a local exhibition is just fantastic. They were organized defensively, which is good for our guys down the road when we play Victoria, another very defensive team, on July 11.” Lane United’s best chances came in second-half stoppage time, when the game was finally a little stretched, with Mitch LaGro and Nathan Braaten both getting good looks in the penalty box. LaGro’s right-footed blast from the right side of the area went wide, and Braaten’s turn-and-shoot was denied by Jalisco’s second-half goalkeeper, Andrew Campos, diving to his right.

 

But for the most part the Reds found themselves up against a compact and disciplined Jalisco side, who were not without the occasional goal threat of their own. Their main striker, Aden Farina, came the closest to scoring of anyone for either team when he cut inside his man and curled a shot off the far post in the 44th minute. At other points he showed a refined ability to possess and distribute the ball in traffic, freeing former Red Deion Jones down the left wing on a few occasions. Jones, Edgar Gomez in midfield and Luke Connolly in defense were the former Lane United stars to suit up for Jalisco; a former practice squad player, Paul Beach, unfortunately distinguished himself for Jalisco by being shown a straight red card for a knee-high, studs-showing tackle on Jose Carlos Terron near the end of the first half. Galas said that both benches and the officials reached a compromise on the fly, removing Beach from the game but allowing Jalisco to replace him with another player, Alex Baker, to keep the match at even strength. “The game was about 80-20 possession in our favor at that point, and them going down to 10 men wasn’t going to make it more of a spectacle for the crowd. That’s who this match was all about anyway—the crowd and the local soccer community, which is really something remarkable for an area this size.”

 

Lane United’s next match is against PDL opposition in the Portland Timbers U-23s, at home on Wednesday, June 29 at 7:00 PM. The teams have already played each other twice, with the Reds winning 1-0 in their first PDL match of the season on May 7 and securing a dramatic comeback draw in Providence Park, 3-3, on May 24. Lane United currently sit third in the PDL Northwest Division table, at 13 points, while the Timbers are last with six points.