Lane United FC 1, Calgary Foothills FC 1
Lane United FC drew 1-1 with Calgary Foothills FC Friday night in Springfield, Oregon. The Reds were able to pick up their first home points of the 2015 PDL season in an even, entertaining match that head coach John Galas said afterward had ended in “a fair result.” For the first team all season, Calgary found themselves behind to an opening goal by an opponent, in this case Lane United’s scoring leader Timothy Mueller in the 27th minute, but they swiftly canceled out that advantage through their own top goalscorer Darius Ramsay in the 30th. From that point on the match tilted back and forth, but despite occasional good spells of pressure and even a few clear-cut chances at both ends, neither side were able to produce a winner.
On an unusually warm evening, with kickoff temperatures hovering around 85 degrees, Calgary at first looked the stronger side, with periods of incisive possession around the Lane United penalty area, but the Reds weathered the storm without allowing the visitors a clear look at goal. Lane United began to show their strongest threat, the immense power and pace of Mueller, playing as a lone striker in a heretofore-unused 4-1-4-1, in the ensuing passages, with the Oregon State man getting several chances to romp forward. In the 20th minute, he finally got the gilt-edged chance he’d been working towards, when Alex Pantoja — who was excellent in the 10 role all night — slipped him a gentle through-ball on the left, but Mueller elected to try to round Calgary goalkeeper Sean Melvin and was forced far enough wide that his ensuing shot could only find the side netting. Only seven minutes later, from almost an instant-replay of the first chance’s buildup, he was able to convert. Again Pantoja beat a man in midfield, this time by looping the ball over his defender to himself, and streamed forward, again with Mueller to his left. Waiting for the big man to release, Pantoja eventually weighted a perfectly timed through-ball and instead of trying to round Melvin, Mueller calmly slotted it underneath him with his left foot for the 1-0 lead.
The Reds certainly looked to be on top of Calgary in the lead-up to the goal but the visitors scored with almost their next attack. A cross was worked into an overloaded penalty box from the left, and when Jon Stadler and a Calgary forward canceled each other out in contesting for a header, the rebound fell to a totally unmarked Ramsay, who blasted it past Matt Bersano from only about 10 yards. Head coach John Galas lamented the ease with which his team conceded their lead, saying that “that was the main disappointment from the game, that we couldn’t hang onto that one-goal lead longer than a few minutes.” Pantoja almost responded for Lane United within a few minutes but thumped a half-volley a yard wide from the top of the box, then Isma Fernández, on just before halftime for Daley Stevens, who had been injured after an unsavory challenge from Miguel Romeo, put his first touch of the match inches wide of the post after being set up by more good running and hold-up play from Mueller. These, as well as Isma’s well-struck 22-yard shot at the beginning of the second half that dragged just wide of Melvin’s right-hand post, would end up being the Reds’ last clear chances of the night.
In the second half, the balance, at least in terms of chances, swung ever so slightly back to the visitors, although their 7 to 1 advantage in second-half shots belies the fact that only two of them seriously worried Bersano in the Lane United goal. The first came in the 71st minute when Dominic Russo, Calgary’s most persistently threatening forward, found himself in open space on the right channel of the penalty box and absolutely leathered a shot a few inches above the near post; Bersano would have scarcely had time to react had it been on target. The second came in the last stages of the game, and forced Bersano into a spectacular diving save from the substitute Nic Reyes. Reyes had waltzed into quite a bit of space around the top of the box and was able to fire off a curling effort that was destined for the bottom corner until Bersano, at full stretch, got just a strong enough hand to it to push it around the post. Lane United’s final chance to respond came a minute later when Cristian Cataluña was released down the right side; with Mueller already having a yard on his man in the middle of the field, the pressure was on to deliver a first-time cross, and the Spaniard’s delivery stretched Mueller just enough to cause him to miss his connection with the ball, with the goalkeeper and a recovering defender also rapidly closing in to meet it.
The final whistle blew shortly thereafter for the Reds’ first home points of the season, following their loss to Kitsap three weeks previous. Galas thought that Calgary had come “exactly as advertised — very well-organized and with lots of pressure, but we had trained for exactly that and for the most part our guys handled it well. There were still too many cheap giveaways here and there that we can work on improving, but we never got hurt on them. At the end of the day, it’s a point, and it’s always easier getting those when you play with eleven guys.”
Lane United now embark on a stretch of four more home games before they are forced to hit the road again; the next one comes against non-league opposition in the Vancouver (WA) Victory, on Wednesday, June 10, also at 7:00 p.m. at the Willamalane Center.