Lane United FC 3, South Sound FC 1
Lane United FC opened its 2015 account with an attractive 3-1 win over South Sound FC (Tacoma, WA) in a non-league friendly at the Willamalane Center. Having fallen behind early to a sloppy goal—a deflected shot after a giveaway at the top of the Lane United box—the Reds only produced a few chances in the remainder of the first half. The tide began to change, though, at halftime with the introduction of six of the “Spanish armada,” an eight-player contingent of Spaniards, most of whom were hand-picked from tryouts in Valencia in March. Only one of them, Richy Hurtado, had started the match, while the rest waited until the second half to be introduced. The change in tempo and spacing was noticeable, and all three second-half goals, two of which came off Spanish boots—those of Baldo and Isma—oozed quality. Timmy Mueller’s powerful third goal with almost the last kick of the game was the cherry on top of a deserved victory.
The match started jerkily, with Lane United’s inexperience as a unit (practices with the final squad only began last Sunday) occasionally manifesting itself in miscommunications or errant passes. After the 9th-minute South Sound goal, credited to Kloh Phillips, the Reds were able to settle into more succinct passing rhythms in midfield, but clear-cut chances still managed to elude them. The best came when Timmy Mueller pounced on a South Sound giveaway at the back of midfield and appeared to be in on goal only to be denied by a brilliant recovering tackle from defender Eli Peterson as they raced into the box. A few minutes later, Lane United goalkeeper Matt Bersano stonewalled Sam Zisette, who had gotten in behind the defense unnoticed, on the right channel of the area. South Sound strolled into halftime 1-0 up and would have been pleased at having interfered with most of Lane United’s designs hitherto.
Returning from the break, head coach John Galas deployed nearly his entire bench at once, which had been the plan heading into the match. “We got exactly what we wanted out of this game, getting to play the two separate halves with mostly different crews,” he said after the game. “It was a deserved win for us.” Josep Baldoví, the only Spaniard on the team who is a returner from 2014, began Lane United FC’s fightback with a brilliant goal in the 65th minute. After some slick passing to work the ball to him with his back to goal inside the box, he used some typically deft footwork to turn, beat his man and fire a mostly uncontested shot low into the right-hand corner from about 15 yards. Cristian Cataluña had deserved an equalizer a few minutes before, but his successful lob of the onrushing goalkeeper from 25 yards bounced off the hard turf and over the crossbar.
Eight minutes later, Mueller would have wrapped up Lane United’s Goal of the Season competition early had his first-time waist-high volley from a whipped-in cross not smashed back off the crossbar. The Reds were clearly gaining control of the game, but almost gave it away in the 79th minute when Zisette again tested Bersano, forcing him into the save of the game with a curling effort that was destined for the far post before the Reds captain pushed it around for a corner. Moments later, Isma Fernández demonstrated how to hit a proper far-post curler, beating a defender 1v1 in a similar position to Baldo’s goal and then whipping a left-footed shot into the side netting, leaving South Sound goalkeeper Colin Benham-Marin with no chance. Mueller applied the coup de grâce in stoppage time by chasing down a long, straight clearance starting around midfield, pulling away from Kloh, the only defender nearby, and keeping control of the ball and his composure to slot a finish underneath Benham-Marin. The final whistle blew only a few seconds after the ensuing kickoff, and the Reds were left celebrating their win in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 446 who had turned out on a resplendent spring evening.
“This was a great night for us and our fans,” Galas concluded. “Everyone got to showcase their talents—I mean, Baldo has scored in two straight games with us now dating back to last season—and get a feel for each other as a unit before we get started in the league. We got a deserved result on top of it, although that was hardly the point. The mood in the locker room is, understandably, pretty positive and we’re heading to Portland growing in confidence with each other.” The Reds take on the Portland Timbers U-23s in their first Premier Development League game at Providence Park on Thursday, May 14, then return to Willamalane on Saturday the 16th to face the reigning Northwest Division champions Kitsap Pumas.