Monthly Archives: July 2018
Lane United FC finished off their 2018 league campaign in style Saturday, beating the Victoria Highlanders 4-0 in Canada. Results elsewhere during the week meant that Seattle Sounders U-23 had taken up an unassailable second-place position in the USL PDL Northwest Division, but the Reds entered the match knowing that a draw would be sufficient to edge out TSS Rovers FC for third place. They did one better than that, though, going ahead through Gerard Hernando in the 24th minute and holding off the Highlanders comfortably thereafter, before a ten-minute blitz in the middle of the second half added another three goals to the scoreline. “I’m very proud of these young men. We traveled with 14 players, with nothing to play for with regard to playoffs, and the boys showed up and put in a great shift, took all three points, and ended the season on a high note,” said a delighted head coach John Galas.
Lane United are a team who look comfortable in possession against most opponents, and that effect was even more pronounced as the match kicked off in balmy conditions on the pristine natural grass of Victoria’s Centennial Stadium. After weathering a few early storms and surviving a penalty shout from the Reds’ Sam Engle, the Highlanders conceded the first goal of the match after 24 minutes when Nick Moon—one of Lane United’s outstanding performers on the day and on the season—hounded defender Peter Schaale out of possession as he looked to play back to his own keeper, Ty Venhola. Moon carried the ball into the area himself and when Venhola charged out to meet him near the endline, squared an unselfish pass to Hernando to tap in in between his marker and the stranded keeper.
Victoria seemed to carry very little threat going forward, and while Moon and his strike partner Engle should have scored several more times before the first half was over, the midfield trio of Hernando, Sergio Diaz, and Willie Spurr did an excellent job of keeping the supply lines open. Unfortunately, wasteful finishing from Engle and uncertain last-minute decision-making from Moon doomed several promising attacks.
In the 34th minute, Victoria could have easily pulled back an equalizer with their one clear chance of the match, but the fullback Jonas Smith chunked a tame open shot straight at the Lane United goalkeeper, R.J. Noll, from 10 yards out. That defensive lapse notwithstanding, the Reds continued to control possession and tempo after the halftime interval, and twenty minutes into the second period the floodgates opened when Diaz scored at the end of a brilliant team move. Moon, Willie Spurr and Engle’s triangular combinations down the right side bamboozled the Victoria back line and led to Engle swinging in an uncontested cross that was only half cleared to Charlie Spurr on the left side of the box. A shot could have been on, but left-back picked his head up to volley a layoff to his brother Willie Spurr at the penalty spot, who unselfishly cushioned a knockdown into the path of Diaz who hit a neat half-volley past an exposed Venhola.
The unselfishness and cohesion that had bred the second goal quickly created a third, two minutes later: the Reds applied a tenacious team press high up the pitch and one loose touch from Victoria’s Thomas Shores allowed Hernando to snap in and knock a hopeful ball forward to an unmarked Moon who made no mistake and finished with a comfortable dink over the onrushing Venhola. There was time after that goal for Engle to blaze another gilt-edged chance over the bar before, in the 74th minute, Moon would win a penalty going over the outstretched leg of Jonah Smith at the left edge of the Victoria penalty area. The Milwaukee man buried the ensuing spot-kick low to the right for his second goal of the afternoon.
Not content with two goals and an assist, Moon then went for his Gordie Howe hat trick as the match ticked into its final ten minutes, getting involved in an altercation that started when Matthias Binder had been deliberately and cynically fouled by Victoria’s Marcus Campanile. Moon would receive a yellow card for his role in the ensuing mass confrontation, while Campanile and Binder were both sent off. With both sides down a man, Victoria nearly stole a goal late with a long ball over the top finding substitute, and storied veteran Blair Sturrock in his final appearance for the Victoria side, who knocked the ball past the on-rushing Noll only for the Reds center-half Andrew Boyd to produce a spectacular goal-line clearance. “Finishing third in this division is certainly something to be very proud of. Year in, year out, this club continues to improve in all areas. These boys represented the club with class and professionalism all season long, and they should be proud of earning the most points, the most goals scored, the best goal differential, and the highest position in the division in LUFC history,” said Galas. “Overall they played some wonderful soccer all season long, they were a pleasure to coach and lead this season, and I hope we made the fans proud.”
Lane United FC edged out the visiting TSS FC Rovers 2-1 on Sunday afternoon to regain ground in the race for a playoff spot in the USL PDL Northwest Division. Rebounding from the heavy 4-0 loss incurred to Calgary Foothills FC, on Friday night, the Reds looked much more comfortable on this day as they possessed the ball confidently and had a clear edge in the number of chances created. Willie Spurr enjoyed another standout performance for the Reds in the creative midfield role and it was his assist to his brother Charlie, playing in a wide attacking role, that opened the scoring in the 30th minute before center-half Drew Boyd found the ball at his feet in the TSS box midway through the second half and slotted home Lane United’s second. The visiting Rovers failed to create many scoring opportunities throughout, but nonetheless clawed a goal back in the 89th minute through their best player on the day, Daniel Sagno, but were unable to pinch an equalizer in stoppage time.
The Reds fielded a strong lineup to start the match and the lively trio of Nick Moon, Willie Spurr, and Sergio Diaz showed no ill effects from the match that had concluded less than 48 hours earlier against Calgary. It was this trio, often combining with the tireless and crafty Anthony Macchione down the right wing, that looked irresistible at times throughout the first half, combining easily and often leaving the Rovers back line looking somewhat exposed. The goal after half an hour was a clinic in one-touch passing, as Diaz’ entry pass to Macchione was cleverly flicked to Willie Spurr, who was able to prod the ball forward to his brother Charlie, by this point startlingly unmarked in the TSS box. With the back line completely taken out of position, the Macalester College man took a touch to settle and placed a low left-footed shot into the bottom corner of Mario Gerges’ net for a deserved 1-0 lead, an advantage which never looked threatened for the remainder of the first half.
Gerges’ name would be called often throughout the second period, as he put on a stellar performance that served to keep the contest close. Moon on two occasions was denied by the Rovers’ keeper from point-blank range, as was the substitute Gerard Hernando later on in the half once the Reds had already doubled their advantage. That goal came from central defender Drew Boyd, who, after venturing into the opposition box for a corner kick, stuck around long enough to receive a cross from Moon, who had overpowered his marker while dribbling in from the right wing. Boyd’s first touch actually led to Willie Spurr having a crack at goal from fifteen yards which was blocked, but the big center-half was on hand to stab home the rebound to make the score 2-0. The Rovers bench and several of their players protested loudly about Moon’s brusque method of riding the challenge that freed him up for the initial delivery into the box, but center referee Isaiah Vlad was unmoved.
The match could easily have been tied at 1-1 just after halftime, had the Reds backline not produced an improbable series of blocks in a goalmouth scramble, culminated by holding-mid-turned-left-back Jose Benavides’ goal line block of Daniel Sagno’s shot from a yard out. It was certainly the most promising of the Rovers’ few chances to score all afternoon. Sagno, who carried the main threat for the visitors, did bag a goal toward the end of the contest, making an incisive diagonal run into the Lane United box that was spotted by Matteo Polisi, who lofted a ball over the top; Sagno then did excellently to settle the ball and despite being channeled away from goal on the right side of the penalty area, turned a low half-volley back across goal to tuck it inside the far post just out of Paul Kruse’s sprawling grasp. TSS threw everything forward in the final minute plus stoppage time, but unfortunately for the Canadians that fine effort from Sagno was too little, too late, and they leave having only picked up one point from three matches on the season against their closest divisional rivals.
The win now puts Lane United level with TSS on points but well ahead on goal differential for the third spot in the division, one point behind Seattle in second. TSS host the second-place Sounders FC U23s on July 11, with Seattle then moving on to play in Calgary, while Lane United travel to face the Victoria Highlanders next Saturday, July 14 with all to play for in this incredibly tight race for second in the PDL Northwest Division.
Having already wrapped up the USL PDL Northwest Division, Calgary Foothills FC stretched their lead Friday night with a 4-0 victory at Lane United FC. The one-sided scoreline belied the balance of play, which was for long periods very even between the two teams, but it would be a stretch to say that the visiting Canadians didn’t deserve their victory, the visitors staying very disciplined and organized. Ajeej Zakaria and Carlos Patino had put Calgary up on either side of halftime, and despite occasional close chances, Lane United were unable to make up any of the deficit before late goals from substitutes Ali Musse and Topa Fakunle put some gloss on the scoreline. “It was a tough loss at home, in a season where we’ve been in the playoff hunt,” said Lane United head coach John Galas.
Lane United started proceedings on the front foot and the match could have had a very different tone were it not for an early error on the part of the officials. The Reds should have had the lead after only three and a half minutes when Casey ChubbFertal sidefooted a shot off the crossbar and Willie Spurr was on hand to head in the rebound, but the goal was disallowed for offside by the far-side assistant Jordan Vlad—wrongly, as it turned out, since replays showed two Calgary defenders standing a few yards closer to the goal than Spurr at the time ChubbFertal’s initial shot came off his foot. It would be a long time before the Reds could produce another chance, and in the meantime the division-champion visitors began to show their quality, with Kyle Jones slamming a 20-yard effort off the post, Jason Camargo shooting disappointingly straight at the Reds’ Paul Kruse after springing the offsides trap, and Calgary generally able to manage the flow of the game. In the 23rd minute the Canadians made their breakthrough, with Nico Pasquotti raiding down the right wing, getting a fortuitous bounce off a ChubbFertal challenge but taking full advantage by delivering a wicked low cross into the penalty area for Ajeej Sarkaria to crash home from close range.
Opportunities to draw level were at a premium for the rest of the half, but Nick Moon really should have converted the one-on-one break that he forced a few minutes after the Calgary goal. Fighting through two 50-50 challenges, he willed himself into a clean breakaway only to be stuffed by an onrushing Marco Carducci after a heavy penultimate touch. And with one of the last actions of the half, Sergio Diaz was only inches away from what would have been the most spectacular goal in the league this season—picking the ball up in the center circle, he decided that headwind be damned, it was worth it to try to lob Carducci from 50 yards, and it nearly worked, as his attempt grazed the top of the crossbar with the Calgary keeper backpedaling and flailing helplessly into his own net.
After a decent spell from the Reds to begin the second half, which included Moon being inches away from getting a toe to a dangerous Anthony Macchione cross, Calgary got their second goal through their substitute midfielder Carlos Patino. The Lane United back line had an uncharacteristic complete breakdown after a giveaway from a throw-in at midfield and Zakaria was allowed to waltz in alone against Kruse, who initially did a good job diving at the attacker’s feet to intervene but was powerless to stop Patino from passing the rebound into a largely abandoned net. For the last half-hour, the Reds were limited to speculative efforts and final-product-less final-third pressure, until giving up two rapid-fire goals on the break in the 84th and 85th minutes, first from Musse—straight from a Lane United free kick—and second from Fakunle’s low shot from the right side of the penalty box. “We were throwing everything forward to claw our way back into it, and it obviously didn’t work out the way we had hoped,” said Galas. “At 1-nil up after 5 minutes, it’s a completely different game, and as we showed in Calgary, we are capable of stifling their attack, so that bad call was huge. Now we’ve just got to get back to work, put this one behind us and prepare for an important match against TSS Rovers on Sunday.”
Lane United FC and the visiting TSS FC Rovers played out a 1-1 draw on Sunday afternoon in Springfield in a match which was finely balanced from the first kick to the last. Midway through the second half, Willie Spurr bagged his third goal in as many days for the Reds to equalize only four minutes after the Rovers had gone ahead through their #9 Dan Davidson. The result leaves Lane United just ahead of their Canadian counterparts on goal differential to hold the second-place spot in the USL PDL Northwest Division.
Both sides came into the contest on short rest. Lane United, though, had won their Friday night match 5-0 at home against the Timbers U-23s whereas TSS had fallen to a 1-0 defeat on the road at Victoria Highlanders. It was no surprise, then, to see the two teams feeling each other out in the opening exchanges, hesitant to apply pressure high up the pitch and prioritizing security at the back above all else. It took 40 minutes for the first truly threatening spells of pressure to arrive for either team, first when Lane United had a series of shots blocked in quick succession in the TSS penalty area, then a minute later when the dangerous Zach Verhoven teed up Dan Davidson for a 15-yard shot that somehow deflected off another Rovers forward and out for a goal kick when it seemed easier to score. TSS then had a strong claim for a penalty in the 44th minute when Casey ChubbFertal hauled down the opposite fullback Janko Vong clean through on goal behind him. Unfortunately for the visitors, the referee Lucas Brooks—whose past matches in Springfield have tended to be marked by bad tempers and a general loss of control—saw nothing wrong with the challenge. With the Rovers bench incandescent and some of their players apparently distracted, the Reds’ Nick Moon snuck in behind the back line at the other end no more than 20 seconds later only to be denied by goalkeeper Mario Gerges one-on-one. The half ended with Brooks blowing the whistle in the middle of a threatening Rovers counter-attack.
The second half proved much more entertaining fare but for more of the right reasons, as the teams frequently traded attacks back and forth. In the first fifteen minutes both Moon and Gloire Amanda saw good chances for the Reds, only for the ball to get stuck under their feet at the crucial moment of shooting. Lane United were enjoying the lion’s share of possession in the middle of the half, albeit without creating many clear-cut chances, but in the 62nd minute disaster struck—a cheap giveaway in midfield saw the substitute Rovers midfielder Erik Edwardson racing forward toward an exposed back line, and it was only a matter of a simple pass to Davidson for a low first-time finish underneath Paul Kruse, and the Canadians were up 1-0.
Lane United pushed back almost immediately though, and no more than four minutes later had their equalizer. Jon Stadler, Moon and Sergio Diaz combined effectively on the right wing, as they so often did this game, with Moon eventually popping up near the top of the box and finding a completely unmarked Diaz with a reverse ball back to his right. Diaz turned and sidefooted a shot to the far post that forced a sprawling, clawing save from Gerges, but unfortunately for the Rovers keeper he was helpless to control the rebound and Willie Spurr and Gerard Hernando crashed in to scramble it into the net. The final touch was judged to have gone to Spurr, and the Reds were level—and for the next ten minutes, it seemed they had smelled blood, as they pushed forward for the go-ahead goal. Amanda saw a brilliant chance deflected by a last-ditch block 10 yards away from goal off a Moon cross, then again down the same wing five minutes later the substitute Anthony Macchione drilled a low ball in that Hernando backheeled on frame from six yards out, only for Gerges to just about manage to squeeze the shot down and stop it from going over the goal line.
After the 75th minute, it was TSS Rovers’ turn to enjoy good pressure, with William Raphael coming closest on a breakaway that forced Kruse to make a diving intervention at the attacker’s feet. Proceedings rather ground to a halt after 83 minutes when Matteo Polisi and Matthias Binder wrestled each other to the ground in the center circle, sparking a confrontation that involved all outfield players for both teams as well as Gerges the TSS goalkeeper; in the end, Binder and Polisi were shown yellow cards for their roles in the skirmish. Both teams, to their credit, spent the final minutes of regulation plus stoppage time actively searching for a winner, snapping into challenges and attempting to break quickly upon winning possession, but ultimately no goal would be forthcoming for either team. The result means that for the moment Lane United will hold onto the second spot in the USL PDL Northwest Division on goal difference, although a Seattle Sounders FC U-23 win against the Portland Timbers U23s on Tuesday would put the former into second place alone.
Lane United FC cruised to a 5-0 win against the Portland Timbers U-23s on Friday night, a result that sees them vault from fifth place to second in the USL PDL Northwest Division. Nick Moon and Willie Spurr led the Reds with two goals apiece, with the substitute Gloire Amanda adding a fifth late in the second half to round off a comprehensive team performance. The visiting Timbers threatened sporadically in the second half to make up some of the deficit, but ultimately failed to get even one effort past the exceptional Paul Kruse in the Lane United goal.
The Reds started off the match with the vast majority of possession and pressure, with Casey ChubbFertal the first player to get a clear sight of goal when his free header from a corner kick forced Tobias Holstein in the Timbers net to sprawl and tip the goalbound effort over the bar. The Timbers soon after produced what would end up being one of their best chances of the entire match, a 20-yard low bullet half-volley that forced an equally athletic diving save from Kruse at the other end. But the Reds continued knocking on the door and in the 21st minute made their first breakthrough, when ChubbFertal wrapped a pass from the left wing around the back line for Moon to chase—finding himself one-on-one with Holstein, he calmly rolled the ball around the Portland keeper and slotted into an empty net.
Straight from the ensuing kickoff, Lane United ramped up the pressure even further and only 90 seconds later had their second goal of the match through Spurr. With the Reds flooding forward in numbers, Spurr found himself with space to shoot at the top of the penalty arc, and after shifting the ball onto his right foot he made no mistake in burying a curling effort into the bottom right corner. Willie’s brother, Charlie Spurr, nearly got in on the act a few minutes later but missed a 45-yard empty-net shot after Holstein had sold himself completely trying to intercept a ball over the top, and in the 29th minute he was denied by Holstein from a more point-blank range after having been played in by the exceptional Sergio Diaz on the right wing. The torrid pressure continued for the rest of the half, and Moon bagged his second in the 40th minute, taking control of a half-cleared cross, after Diaz and Gerard Hernando had terrorized the Timbers back line yet again, and dispatching the ball into the roof of the net with extreme prejudice from 18 yards.
Portland substituted three quarters of their back line between the 35th minute and the start of the second half in an attempt to stem the bleeding, and for 10 minutes at the start of the second period the strategy appeared to be paying some dividends, with Lane United barely able to string multiple passes together. But despite some worrying spells of pressure from the visitors, the Reds would add a fourth goal in the 57th minute, courtesy of Willie Spurr again. Diaz, who continued his first-half pattern of bamboozling any defender unfortunate enough to be stuck in front of him, this time beat the substitute fullback Alan Cruz at a canter and squared a ball to the right channel of the box for Spurr to gather, stride forward with and slide under the desperately exposed Holstein for 4-0. At this point, the Timbers seemed thoroughly defeated, and they were lucky not to be down a man and another goal when Holstein cleaned out the Lane United substitute Gloire Amanda, who was clear through on goal, with a terribly timed challenge in the 67th minute, only for the referee to look the other way for some reason. Amanda would exact revenge in the late late stages of the game though, exchanging a simple 1-2 with Eduardo Lorente in the Timbers penalty area between some statuesque defenders and thumping home a right-footed finish. The ensuing air-guitar celebration with the corner flag was emblematic of the Klopp-style “heavy-metal football” the Reds had been playing all evening. They now have less than 48 hours to recover before meeting the visiting TSS FC Rovers—fresh off a 1-0 loss to Victoria Highlanders—on Sunday afternoon at 2:00.