Lane United Defeats Timbers U-23s In First Game of Season
May 8, 2016
Lane United FC will be brimming with enthusiasm after a comprehensive 1-0 victory over the Portland Timbers U-23s in the first match of the 2016 PDL season. The contest kicked off with three former Lane United standouts in Timmy Mueller, Jordan Jones and Devonte Small all dressed in the Timbers’ green, but their influence on proceedings was negligible as the visiting Reds put on a defensive showcase. José Mourinho is fond of saying that winning 1-0 is the easiest thing to do in the sport, and the Reds certainly made it look comfortable after scoring early through Nate Braaten in the 11th minute and then scarcely allowing the Timbers a glimpse of the goal for the ensuing 80 or so. Head coach John Galas praised the collective effort, saying that his squad’s “defensive organization was superb” and singling out Matthias Binder and Joel Rydstrand in the center of midfield especially for praise.
Galas also admitted that any offensive strategy was “freelance and on the fly,” given that his team had only started practice on Monday of this week and had been focusing on the defensive aspects of the game for most of that time. Stefan Tomasevic, normally a center-half, played 90 minutes as a target forward, but still showed plenty of instinct by latching onto a chipped through-ball after five minutes, only to be denied by Zach Nelson in the Portland goal. Nelson would later deny two more one-on-ones from Braaten in the second half, but he was powerless to stop the Oregon State man’s goal in the 11th minute. Most of the credit for the goal should go to Lane United’s Dillon Nino, who chased after a hopeful long ball, then shouldered his opposite fullback off of it when the easier options seemed to be to play it back to the goalkeeper or simply put it into touch. Suddenly, Nino had the ball at his feet with an utterly unmarked Braaten hovering around the penalty spot to slot home his squared pass. Portland had threatened with a few half-chances in the opening minutes of the match, but did not trouble Ben Willis in the Lane United goal again for the rest of the match, except for a few crosses and attempted through-balls which he dealt with authoritatively.
It would be hard to overstate the Reds’ dominance of the midfield, especially once Mitch LaGro was substituted on in a holding role at halftime. LaGro, his Creighton teammate Rydstrand and the returning Binder never needed a second invitation to pounce on an interception or tackle, and Binder and Rydstrand especially were the hub of possession as they successfully played keep-away from the Timbers for much of the second half. The Timbers seemed increasingly hesitant as the match progressed to try playing out of the back, so unsuccessful were they in their efforts to move the ball on the ground through midfield, and with the amount of giveaways they offered in exposed positions, it was something of a miracle—or just down to brilliant play from their goalkeeper Nelson—that they only conceded once. Braaten was handed a breakaway at the beginning of the second half from a bad back-pass, and was later played through by Tomasevic into an identical position, only for Nelson to stuff both efforts. The Timbers would have given anything to be able to say they had had even one chance of similar quality, but the pattern of the match was epitomized by LaGro neutralizing Mueller with a crunching slide tackle at the top of the box in the 80th minute just when it seemed as if the big Oregon State man finally had a clear chance to shoot. A scramble from a long throw-in was the Timbers’ only other half-chance, and appropriately, the referee’s whistle blew in stoppage time as Lane United were streaming forward on another counter from another turnover forced. The Reds, and the traveling Red Aces who were in full voice all match long, were nonetheless glad to take all three points. The first home match of the campaign awaits, against the defending PDL Northwest Division champions Kitsap Pumas on May 13th.