Kitsap Pumas 2, Lane United FC 1
Lane United FC suffered their first home defeat of the season, losing to the Kitsap Pumas 2-1 off a goal from Chuy Sanchez in the 93rd minute. Sanchez, who had also scored his team’s equalizer in the 66th minute, was one of the only steadying influences for the visitors in what was a chaotic, chippy match from the kickoff until the final seconds. His goals were high-quality finishes, the first off a first-time volley in the penalty box and the winner from a 19-yard free kick that he somehow finessed over the wall and down into the net, with Lane United’s stalwart goalkeeper Matt Bersano rooted to the spot. Lane United, also not wanting in the beautiful-goals department, had opened the scoring in the first half with Conner Bevans finishing a sublime pass from Josep Baldoví.
Kitsap thought they had the first goal of the game under ten minutes in when Septi Danciu poached a tap-in in the box after some scrambling following a long throw. He was ruled offside, though, and the fact that no one protested it means it was probably an easy decision. Khiry Shelton then got in on the act, in one graceful motion controlling and firing a volley from about 15 yards out, forcing Matt Grosey into a good diving save. Bersano went tit-for-tat by denying Danciu on a breakaway a minute later, then goalmouth action took a back seat to holding, chipping, robust aerial challenges and ill-advised slides as Lucas Brooks, the referee, struggled to get control of the game. He handed out four yellow cards in the first half alone. But with this match falling only eight days after the first clash between the two teams, it might have been expected that the familiarity would breed contempt even though the first match had not had much of a rough edge.
Above the fray glided Baldo for Lane United and Sanchez for Kitsap. The former drew first blood in the 24th minute by slotting Conner Bevans in on an absolutely delicious pass that instantly eliminated both Kitsap center-backs, from which Bevans swept the ball past an onrushing Grosey first-time for a 1-0 lead. Bevans almost returned the favor to his Spanish teammate a few minutes later by racing down the right wing and sliding in a cross that Cory Keitz, Kitsap’s best defender and recent PDL Team of the Week selection, slid and cut out at the last possible second. Sanchez missed a golden chance to equalize by misconnecting with a free header 10 yards from goal a few minutes before halftime. Because real chances after that were so few and far between until his eventual goal, he must have been worried that he’d missed his only chance to bring his team back in the game. But he and Catalano combined efficiently for the second goal in the 66th minute. Straight off a bouncing throw-in, Catalano flicked the ball over the marker that was on his back, right into Sanchez’ path; for a split-second, it looked like he had too much adjustment to do in order to hit a shot, but he squeezed off a first-time volley anyway that went into the side netting.
Andy Devlin almost scored a spectacular bicycle kick two minutes later that would have sealed Kitsap’s comeback, but Dirk van der Velde headed the ball off the line. Things went quiet for the next 15 minutes as the flow of the game was interrupted by sloppy touches and injuries, including a worrying one that ended the day for Julio Alarcon, Lane United’s brick wall of a center half. With five minutes left in regulation, the game began to get stretched and chances opened up at both ends, then Kitsap’s Cody Shelton earned a straight red card in the 88th minute for a medieval slide tackle on Baldo that stifled a counter attack. Everything hung in the balance until Lane United gave away a foul at the edge of their own penalty area in injury time and Sanchez guided the ball over the wall for the game-winner. It capped a brilliant all-around performance from him, in what was not always a particularly brilliant game. Starting Wednesday, Lane United begin a grueling stretch of three games in five days, two on the road against Washington Crossfire and the Seattle Sounders FC U23 followed by one at home against the second-place Victoria Highlanders. Quickly forgetting the disappointment of this loss will be essential to gaining points from any one of those three tricky encounters.