Lane United FC 3, Puget Sound Gunners 3
Timothy Mueller scored a first-half hat trick for Lane United FC as the Reds tied the Puget Sound Gunners 3-3 in what has to go down as the most entertaining match in the Oregon club’s short history. In a match that was played at a break-neck pace, with a chance seemingly every minute from the first to the 94th, Mueller and his counterpart Charles Pitts were the standouts, the latter getting two goals of his own, one in each half, and drawing the penalty that Adam Jones converted for the hosts’ second goal. Lane United were up 2-0, then later 3-1, before halftime had even struck, but let the lead slip away, much to the chagrin of head coach John Galas. He remarked after the game that “when we step back and look at it, a point on the road is still a good thing. We’re happy to take that away from today. But everyone’s frustrated in letting the lead go.” He added that his team “had good energy throughout, and I can’t fault the effort, but sometimes we were hit-and-miss and a few cheap mistakes cost us the three points.”
Puget Sound themselves might have been ruing similar mistakes, as Lane United’s first and third goals came from turning over possession around midfield and finding themselves suddenly exposed at the back. Mueller opened the scoring in the 20th minute — by which point both teams had already produced several strong chances, including Justin Fiddes having a goal disallowed for offsides — after being played in behind a hastily retreating back line and sidefooting an inch-perfect finish low across Gunners keeper Cody Jewett’s goal and in off the far post. That goal was with his less-favored left foot, and two minutes later he scored again by thumping in an Isma Fernández corner with his more favored head. Daley Stevens then almost immediately put the Reds up three by scooping up an interception 20 yards from goal and shooting a foot over the bar from inside the box, and Lane United were punished for that profligacy in due course by Pitts. In only the 25th minute, he advanced up the center of the park mostly unchallenged, cut onto his left foot and shot from the arc to beat Chris Lowrimore, who couldn’t get a strong enough hand behind the effort.
That goal made the score 2-1 after five of the most breathless minutes anyone is likely to experience all season. Things had finally quieted down by the 34th minute, when Isma and Mueller turned the volume up again. This time Isma latched onto a Gunners misplayed pass — forced by pressure from his countryman Cristian Cataluña — and did very well to cut inside his marker at the top of the box and curl a brilliant effort onto the crossbar. The rebound inevitably fell to Mueller, who blasted it into the net first-time through Jewett with his favorite right foot, finishing off his perfect first-half hat trick. At this point, Lane United were up 3-1 and hunting for more, with the attacking trio of Mueller, Cata and Isma pressuring the Gunners’ defensive players into giveaways from time to time. Unfortunately for the Reds, a deep midfield giveaway of their own led to Pitts moving upfield on almost the exact same trajectory which he had used to score earlier — only this time, before he could shoot, some combination of Dirk van der Velde and Brenden Anderson brought him down at the top of the penalty box with a stonewall foul. Jones, whom Galas believed was the Gunners’ best player on the night, stepped up and converted the spot-kick, though again Lowrimore got a hand to the high shot. The halftime whistle blew a minute later. 3-2.
The second half was played at a similar pace to the first, with a similar rate of chances, the only difference being both teams’ failure to finish as many of them. In the 56th minute, Mueller got a chance to add to his already impressive tally but was denied on a point-blank rebound shot by Jewett, just 30 seconds after Lowrimore had made a reaction save on Fiddes, who had stolen around the right side of the Lane United back line. Both keepers continued to play well throughout the second half, although Lowrimore was beaten once, in the 64th minute, by another powerful Pitts shot, the forward having again benefited from Lane United losing possession and exposing themselves at the back. He raced into the right channel of the penalty box and fired low through Lowrimore to equalize and make it 3-3; at that point, with 25 minutes plus stoppage time to play, it was anyone’s guess who would win. Lane United threatened several times with crosses from their fullbacks, Casey Phillips on the left and Jon Zabasajja on the right. Puget Sound threatened several times, either from long throws or from Fiddes’ frightening pace up front; Galas after the match praised Brenden Anderson, who played 90 minutes at center-half, for dealing with the powerful Gunners forwards the entire contest. In the end, no one could make a breakthrough, but it was not for want of trying. Galas said that it had been his team’s goal to get 7 points out of his team’s three trips Washington on the trot — this match, plus the two next weekend at Seattle Sounders U23 and Washington Crossfire — and that “while one point here makes it harder, it’s still well within our reach, and we can still set ourselves up nicely for the home stand in June.”
Lane United play the Sounders U23 on Friday, May 29 in Bonney Lake and the Crossfire on Sunday, May 31 in Redmond.