Lane United FC 4, Puget Sound Gunners 2
Lane United FC were finally able to pick up all three points from a league match this season and they did it in some style, dispatching the visiting Puget Sound Gunners 4-2. Head coach John Galas said afterward that he had challenged his squad to assert themselves immediately from the kickoff, and Timothy Mueller took the coaching to heart, scoring 90 seconds into a match in which his father, Roland, traveling from Idaho, was in attendance for Father’s Day. Puget Sound got a deserved equalizer a quarter of an hour later through Robert Hyams, but then repeatedly found themselves exposed at the back from Lane United’s incisive attacking possession, culminating in a goal from Dirk van der Velde — also with his father, Chris, looking on in the stands — in the 32nd minute. The second half belonged to Lane United, with Mueller adding a second after 70 minutes and Alex Pantoja winning and then converting a penalty before the Puget Sound substitute Javier Reyes added a consolation goal in stoppage time to avoid his team suffering a repeat of the same scoreline from their last visit to the Willamalane Center, in May of 2014.
Every indication before the match was that there would be goals — the two teams had produced six between them in a breathless 3-3 draw in Issaquah, Washington in May, and both were tired and perhaps a little stretched following losses on Friday night. Mueller, now Lane United’s leading scorer with seven on the season, is built to thrive against leggy defenders, so when Edgar Gomez floated a 40-yard ball to him between the center backs after only 90 seconds, it was no surprise to see him outpace one and then muscle off the other before calmly stroking his shot into the bottom corner of Cody Jewett’s net. Puget Sound had the better chances in the ensuing ten minutes before eventually getting an equalizer. The Gunners’ fullback Kevin Cook whipped a nearly impossible-to-defend cross to the back stick, where Hyams was on hand to rise highest and loop a header back across the face of goal over Bersano. A brief period of respite for both teams followed before Edgar Gomez pulled up with an injury and was replaced by Josep Baldoví, back after an almost six-week injury layoff; his presence changed the complexion of the match immediately, as his first move was to play Mueller through with an inspired through-ball, though the big man was forced too wide to be able to finish after rounding the goalkeeper. In the immediate turnaround from that incident, Puget Sound would get one of their best remaining chances, but Matt Bersano in goal for the Reds blocked a streaking Charles Pitts’ shot with his legs.
Lane United’s two fullbacks, van der Velde and Amer Sasivarevic, were the surprise providers of the goal that would put Lane United up by one going into halftime. Sasivarevic, whose outswinging crosses from the left wing have spelled danger for opponents all season, served a typically intelligent ball into the box after beating a defender; after Mueller couldn’t quite reach it, Jewett in goal appeared to have it covered, but he instead spilled his catch straight to van der Velde at the back post, who had a simple tap-in for 2-1. The Reds continued to press soon after, with Baldo going close from 22 yards, and then kept their foot to the pedal following the halftime interval. Early in the second half, Mueller was denied a breakaway when he was incorrectly called offsides on a ball that had been intentionally played straight to him by a Gunners defender. Half-chances then came and went at each end before Lane United put together their prettiest goal of the match, in the 69th minute. Following good midfield possession by Alex Pantoja, van der Velde fired a ball forward toward Devonte Small and Mueller, running in tandem. The Beavers teammates combined beautifully, with Small deftly flicking his first touch into Mueller’s path; he then outpaced the one remaining defender, rounded Jewett with ease and finished comfortably.
With that blow, the Gunners seemed mostly finished, although Lane United did occasionally show a worrying tendency to give up odds-on counters as they pushed for even more goals. In the 82nd minute, Pantoja notched his second of the season when, after playing a one-two with Devonte Small at the edge of the box, he attempted to race around the outside of the PSG fullback and was blocked off at full force. The Spaniard stepped up to take the ensuing penalty, burying it in the bottom right corner. Tempers threatened to boil over as the game approached stoppage time with a number of niggly incidents and demonstrative performances of dissent; finally the Puget Sound substitute Alexander White lost his cool completely and stamped on a prone Matthias Binder, with the referee Andrew Marihart no more than five yards away and looking straight at the two. After White’s expulsion, Puget Sound did get their consolation, with Reyes tapping in off a rebound. Galas, as any coach might, said he was “pretty disappointed with the lax defending that let them walk in and do that, even though we were up.” But he also was full of praise for his team’s attitude, saying that “they’ve fought through the losses, continued to give it everything in training, and this win is no more than they or the fans deserve today. They took care of business out on the field and I’m proud of the guys for continuing to push and making it happen.” Lane United now have an exhibition match to look forward to, on Tuesday night against an all-star team from Springfield’s Liga Unida, followed by a road trip to play the division leaders and 2014 national finalists Kitsap Pumas.