Lane United FC 1, Washington Crossfire 1

May 18, 2014

Lane United FC drew 1-1 with the Washington Crossfire in a game that, while not especially ill-tempered, saw the home team finish with only nine players on the pitch and the striker Khiry Shelton pulling emergency duty at center back. The Crossfire’s Matthew Poplawski had opened the scoring after only five minutes, but Washington could never add a second goal and, already down to ten men after the dismissal of Brenden Anderson for two yellow cards, Lane United got their equalizer in the 60th minute from the penalty spot after Baldo Ribes was fouled.

The match started with the Crossfire immediately applying pressure into the Lane United defensive third. A long throw-in that was launched in the vicinity of the penalty spot ended up with Poplawsky prodding a low shot that the Lane United goalkeeper Matt Bersano barely saved, then following up his own rebound and tapping into an empty net. For the next give minutes, the Crossfire kept pressing and created what no one knew at the time would be their best chance of the rest of the game, when Anderson had to race back and clear a trickling shot from Poplawski off the line. After that point, Lane United’s midfielders and forwards started to feel the game out and maintain possession, springing several attacks that just lacked a final ball. Shelton and Conner Bevans both had strong low shots on their preferred right foot that forced saves out of the Washington goalkeeper Tyler Visten. The Crossfire defenders must have been concerned at the amount of space behind the midfield that Lane United’s forwards, plus Mikhail Doholis, the most attack-minded midfielder, had to run at them.

The game could have changed—-but in reality, it barely did—-when Anderson was sent off in the 40th minute for his second yellow card after he brought down Poplawski who was racing behind the back line. John Galas reshuffled his defense, took off the forward Chico Sastre and replaced him with a fullback, Tyler Stelter, and the status quo was effectively upheld. Lane United still had space to attack, and Martin Lukaschik hit the post on a half-volley thirty seconds before halftime. Ten minutes into the second half, Lukaschik was subbed out and on came Baldo Ribes; five minutes later, he won a penalty by shifting the ball past Andy Thoma, who swung out his boot and clipped the Valencian’s ankle. Shelton passed the ball low into the right corner and the score was tied.

Chances came and went for both teams after that point, and it seemed likely that more goals were coming. Galas dropped Shelton back into the midfield and introduced Velazquez as a lone striker; he created several chances almost completely on his own. He was also booked for simulation when it appeared to everyone but the referee that the defender, Justin Schmidt, had thrown him down. Schmidt made no remonstrations after the initial whistle, seemingly expecting a booking for a tactical foul, then walked sheepishly away as the 17-year-old was booked for diving.

Rivas’ loose attitude towards physical play contact eventually resulted in the incident where Lane United’s other center-back, Julio Alarcon, was sent off in the 88th minute. Alarcon was dragged down by a combination slide-tackle and rugby-tackle in the corner as he attempted to shield the ball out of play, then did something to react to his opponent on the ground—-the camera footage is obstructed on his actual movement and no one except the players close by and the referee could have possibly had a clear view of the incident. He was then shoved violently to the ground by Poplawski, who escaped with only a yellow, although the league will certainly be reviewing the entire incident. It was a sour end to a match that had been full of open, attacking play throughout and seemed to deserve more goals than the 1-1 scoreline suggests.

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