Lane United FC 2, Washington Crossfire 0
For the second match in a row, Lane United FC walked away from the Willamalane Center with an impressive 2-0 win over a league opponent, with the Washington Crossfire this time the victims. The pattern of events was remarkably similar to the win over the Portland Timbers U-23s six days previous: second-half goals from Jordan Jones and Timothy Mueller, and one massive save from Matt Bersano in the Lane United goal. Bersano’s intervention this time around was even more critical, as he denied Washington’s Wesley Stark from the penalty spot with the score only at 1-0. Thirteen minutes later, Jordan Jones added Lane United’s insurance goal with an uncontested header from a set piece, and the Reds comfortably saw out the win in the closing minutes.
Though Lane United were in winning form entering the game and fielding one of their strongest lineups of the season, while Washington were on a three-game losing streak and traveling without their leading scorer, Hamza Haddadi, and several of their University of Washington-based players, the first half was a surprisingly even affair with decent chances for both teams. Lane United head coach John Galas went so far after the match as to say that his opponents were “the best Crossfire team we’ve faced so far, more fluid and better playing overall.” The Reds lost their influential midfielder Alex Pantoja to injury after 15 minutes, and while the team were briefly down to 10 men, center-half Cristian de Luis actually provided the best chance of the match until that point when he carried forward unchallenged and laced a shot just high from the top of the penalty box. Stark, Washington’s biggest threat on the night, forced Matt Bersano into a diving near-post save in the 20th minute, which was followed almost immediately by the Crossfire goalkeeper Tyler Visten denying Mueller on a breakaway. Late in the first half, Washington created more chances, with Hassani Dotson whistling a long shot a few inches wide of a worried Bersano’s post and Jeff Rose forcing the Lane United captain to tip a closer-range effort over the bar.
At the end of the first half it seemed to be anyone’s game, but Lane United started to rack up the scoring chances in the first 15 minutes of the second. Mueller was unusually profligate, missing the goal frame on several chances that he would have expected himself to bury, including another 1v1 with Visten, but a player of his skill won’t ever be held down for long; in the 60th minute he finally broke the deadlock by converting an even tougher chance than some of the ones he had spurned. After Dirk van der Velde played in a one-hopped cross from the right wing, Mueller, side to goal, swept in a brilliant finish on the full volley with his first touch. The goal marked his ninth of the season in league play, currently tying him for most in the PDL, and his 13th overall in all competitions. Five minutes later, the Reds had put themselves in a spot of bother, though: the Washington substitute Ibrahim Drame got by Casey ChubbFertal on the right wing and was hauled down by the former South Eugene High School man upon entering the penalty area. After deliberating with his assistant, referee Jason Perlewitz pointed to the spot. Stark stepped up and tried to place his attempt in the bottom left corner, but Bersano was already there and made what ended up looking a comfortable save, with Dirk van der Velde hacking away the rebound before Stark had a chance to fire again.
Galvanized by that save, Lane United immediately began creating almost a chance a minute in search of their second goal. Finally, in the 81st minute, Jordan Jones delivered it by nodding in the simplest of headers from inside the six yard box after a well-delivered inswinging corner from Daley Stevens. The win was never in doubt afterwards. Galas afterward stressed the importance of the back-to-back clean sheets, saying that “over the past 180 minutes we’ve defended so well as a team, and it’s really given everyone else a lift not to have to come back from goals down. I thought we were a little loose defensively in the first half, but we survived and the second-half performance was exceptional, especially from Bersano again.”
Lane United next play a friendly match against Bellingham United of the Evergreen Premier League, at home on Sunday, July 12. It will be the Reds’ last home game of the season. They have one more contest afterwards, an away date in Calgary on July 15 for the last PDL game and last game overall of 2015.