Lane United FC 1, Vancouver Victory 0
Lane United FC kept their first clean sheet of the season and beat the visiting Vancouver Victory 1-0 behind a 21st-minute goal from the irrepressible Timothy Mueller. The Evergreen Premier League opponents Vancouver never looked likely to equalize and continued to surrender quality chances to the Reds throughout the match, only troubling the Lane United back line with a few passages of sustained pressure in the final ten minutes of the game. Lane United head coach John Galas regretted being “pinned back” for the finish, but otherwise commended his team’s clear command of their non-league opponents. “The clean sheet is the biggest thing for us, but also some of our possession was excellent. We moved the ball around very well on some of our attacks; my only regret is that we didn’t grab two or three more goals.”
On a night when Armando Filho suited up for the Reds for the first time after battling back from a repeat ACL injury sustained right before he was scheduled to make his debut in 2014, Lane United clearly benefited from the relaxed pace and physicality of play in comparison to some of their league fixtures. Casey ChubbFertal, starting at left-back, was the first to trouble Jordan Farr’s net with a violently struck but possibly mis-hit cross that forced the Vancouver goalkeeper to scramble to his near post and claw the effort away. A few moments later, Mueller bagged his sixth goal in seven games; having somehow been allowed to walk up to the edge of the penalty arc and shoot on his powerful right foot, he forced Farr to parry the ball up in the air and back toward the unguarded goal frame. Backtracking, Farr and a defender were able to keep the ball from crossing the goal line, only to find Mueller the first to respond to their desperate clearance and bang it back into the net before they could be on their feet again. Mueller showed his versatility a minute later when he almost provided an assist to a diagonally streaking Cristian Cataluña, only to over-hit the chipped through-ball slightly. Before the half was over, he had ended up with three more chances, none better than when he actually got past the onrushing Farr by lobbing a bouncing ball to himself, then took too long to control it and ended up scuffing a shot wide with defenders dropping back to cover the goalmouth.
Vancouver had loudly proclaimed victory when they beat a squad of Lane United trialists on their home turf in April, but this was an entirely different class of opponent: Mueller’s glut of chances told only part of the story. Equally impressive was how comfortably Lane United possessed the ball in most parts of the pitch. Attacks would start from the back and switch side to side a few times without the blue-and-white-clad visitors ever quite being able to touch the ball for themselves. John Galas singled out almost his entire starting eleven, name by name, after the game for “coming in with the right attitude, putting in an honest shift and taking care of the ball. Occasionally I thought we could have had more thrust and found the killer ball sooner, but the important thing is we were spaced well, had good rhythm and were secure with our possession.”
The Victory slowly built momentum in the second half, to the point where the last fifteen minutes of the game saw quite a bit of possession in the Lane United defensive third. But if the Reds were bending a little more, they never seemed like breaking; in the end, Chris Lowrimore only had to save one shot on target, a speculative 30-yard free kick from Tracy Hassan. Cristian de Luis and Luke Connolly, who each played the full 90 minutes in their first center-half partnership, did not have trouble winning the necessary aerial challenges or fifty-fifty tackles that, if lost, could have spelled difficulty for the Reds’ goal. They were helped by full-field sacrifices by some of their teammates, with Alex Pantoja and Armando Filho, the latter substituted on in the 68th minute, both tracking back to make recovery tackles at the top of the box at multiple points. Vancouver’s offensive improvements also occasionally came at the expense of Lane United breaks; Mueller might have converted another chance late in the second half after Deion Jones played him in, but the big Oregon State man went for power from about 15 yards, and ended up pounding the ball well over the goal. Deep into injury time, Vancouver’s Armando Guevara connected decently with a back-post header that went just wide, but that was as close as the Victory would get to avoiding the loss.
Lane United now begin a much-needed rest period of nine days before playing their next match, at home to the Seattle Sounders FC U23s on June 19 at 7:00 pm.