Lane United FC 1, Seattle Sounders FC U-23s 0
Lane United won the first PDL game in its history 1-0 Friday night behind a single goal from Conner Bevans in the 21st minute. From that minute onward, Lane United was forced to hold on, relying heavily on the expertise of goalkeeper Matt Bersano and center-halves Julio Alarcon and Brenden Anderson for prolonged stretches of pressure in the second half. A red card for Seattle’s Clement Simonin, for his second bookable offense, in the 83rd minute took some of the sting out of the final ten minutes of the match, and Seattle never posed a serious threat afterward.
The match began slowly, with Lane United very deliberate in their attempts to pass out of the back. Often, the ball never made it to the forward line of their 4-3-3 before possession was lost. When it did break to Rolando Velazquez on the left or Khiry Shelton in the target-man role, the attacking quality on display was impressive. Velazquez and the attacking midfielder Doholis had both played in a few decent crosses from the left wing before the former found himself with the ball at his feet, Conner Bevans to his right and the chance to break, with only Seattle’s two center-halves between them and the goal. Velazquez slid a perfectly-weighted through-ball to Bevans, who timed his run excellently, and he was in utterly alone to pass the ball past the stranded Seattle keeper Jake Feener to the far post.
The goal had little effect on the pattern of the rest of the first half. Jamael Cox’s zippiness and Niko Hansen’s formidable straight-line speed meant that they occasionally made worrying forays into the Lane United attacking third, but Bersano only had one real save to make when Hansen shot hard to the near post from the right side of the penalty box.
LUFC’s starting right back, Dirk van der Velde, had aggravated a lingering hamstring injury just before the goal and was replaced by Casey Phillips, who played on the right the rest of the game as Amer Sasivarevic switched to the left. Phillips bore the brunt of Seattle’s pressure in the second half—Luis Esteves and Hansen were constantly allowed to run at him. Alarcon provided good cover and cut out a surprising number of aerial crosses for someone of his sub-6’ stature, but Seattle’s best chances of the game came from the left flank in the second half. First, Esteves dropped a cross onto the head of Thomas di Villardi, who couldn’t direct his header down at the goal frame. Then ten minutes later, Esteves cut in and plastered a shot on his right foot low to Bersano’s near post, and the keeper did very well to push it around for a corner. In the meantime, all manner of crosses and incisive runs were flying into the Lane United box and somehow no clearer chances than those two materialized. On the Lane United end, Shelton’s remarkable ability to either win fouls or hold up the ball and recycle to the midfielders meant that Lane United occasionally had chances to rest and ease forward, but with 15 minutes left, it was largely one-way traffic coming back at them.
Simonin’s two second-half yellow cards each came from ill-advised challenges that won the ball. In the first, around the 60th minute, he raised his foot too high to prod the ball away from Velazquez near midfield and ended up cleating the 17-year-old Lane United attacker in the shin. In the 83rd minute, he leapt into a full-blooded tackle on Martin Lukaschik—again, he won the ball first, but again, the nature of the challenge was too reckless for the referee Andrew Marihart to ignore.
The last ten minutes passed without much incident, Matt Bersano gathering the few half-chance through-balls that Seattle managed to put through. Sounders defenders were twice cautioned for cynically tugging back nascent breakaways. When Marihart blew his whistle three minutes into stoppage time with red smoke drifting onto the field from the Red Aces’ south grandstand, a flood of young fans streamed onto the field to celebrate a hard-earned victory for the area’s new franchise.