Lane United lost its opening scrimmage of the 2014 season 3-1 to Corban University in a match played in ideal conditions in sunny Salem, Oregon on Saturday afternoon. Edgar Gomez’s composed finish off a Loren Hill cross in the 75th minute was a welcome consolation for a Reds side that had at times played evenly with Corban but found themselves three goals down after 55 minutes. Corban’s first two goals had been punched in off of set pieces and their third was the product of an inch-perfect long diagonal ball that left Lane United’s central defense completely exposed.
Some of these Lane United players have been training with each other in Eugene over the past week, but others have been unable to attend regularly and two of them, Jeevraj Rai and Gabe Hutchinson, had never met the coaching staff or any of their teammates in person before today. For many, this game represented a final round of open tryouts, as none of them besides Rolando Velazquez have been named to the full 2014 squad. The game inevitably began unevenly, and Corban were ahead after only five minutes when they scrambled a goal out of a 40-yard set piece that had been hoisted into the box.
They doubled their advantage at the end of the opening period (the match being played in three 30-minute periods to allow for lineup experimentation) when they won another free kick, this time on the left wing. The hard, inswinging delivery only required a touch off anyone and Loren Hill, the Lane United midfielder, was unfortunately the provider as the ball rifled off his back and into his own net.
By this point, Lane United had only mustered two relatively tame attempts at goal, from Hill and Velazquez respectively, although Velazquez had already shown a penchant for sneaking in behind Corban’s back line—the timing of his runs or the weight of the through balls never quite working out. He finally deserved a goal at the beginning of the second period, when he latched onto a long pass, brushed off the last defender and succeeded in lobbing the bouncing ball over the onrushing keeper 25 yards from goal. His effort had too much arc, though, and shot up over the crossbar after one bounce off the hard artificial turf.
Lane United settled into the game after that point and had a number of decent chances, including Jose Nunez glancing a header just wide off of a free kick, and Max Hawes doing well to corral a clearance at the top of the box and drag a shot wide on the half-volley. The third Corban goal, which came at the end of the second period, was their only strong chance of that passage. In the third period, the Reds were in control of the game, consistently pressuring Corban out of possession and on a couple of occasions passing it all the way out of the back to create chances up front. Gomez had two good shots and Hill one very powerful effort off his left foot that went only a little wide before Paul Beach hit the crossbar when he broke away from the Corban high line and found himself one-on-one with the keeper. The Reds’ efforts finally paid off when Gomez won possession 40 yards out, found Hill on the right and he slid a cross back in for Gomez to finish comfortably in the bottom corner.
The most stunning play of the game was yet to come, when Gomez attempted a chipped/curled shot from 25 yards that Corban’s goalkeeper did extremely well to save by sprawling and pushing it against his own bar. Raul Fletes also set up Ian Maloney with a cross similar to the one Gomez had scored from, but Maloney dragged his finish wide and to the left. But the late assault was just that—late—and a 3-3 draw would have been flattering given the ragged way the game began. Lane United’s small contingent of fans who made the drive north from Eugene could at least feel rewarded that they had gotten to see some of the team’s hopefuls finish the exhibition on a high note.
Late edit: Peter Bellerby, of NW Sports Pics, has graciously shared some of the photos that he took of Saturday’s action. Thank you, Peter, for your work!