Lane United Record Tough Loss at Home to Timbers U-23s

June 30, 2016

Lane United FC lost at home 1-0 to the Portland Timbers U-23s in a match farcically affected by center referee Benjamin Warren failing to apply the technical laws of the game. The Reds have every reason to feel aggrieved by the developments starting in the 15th minute of the game, when they converted a penalty that was not ordered to be retaken, as the rules of the game state it must, when Warren apparently judged that Lane United players had encroached on the penalty box during the taking of the kick. Portland scored the go-ahead goal, and eventual match winner, late in the first half courtesy of a headed goal from their massive forward Tucker Hume, and Lane United were unable to produce an equalizer in the second half.

The match started with Lane United on the front foot, although no clear chances materialized in roughly the opening quarter of an hour. But at the fourteen-minute mark, a ludicrously mishandled series of events unfolded. Lane United’s Akeem Ward latched onto an underhit backpass from Portland’s Peter Prescott and raced in on goal, utterly alone but for the goalkeeper, Colin Partee. Ward attempted to round Partee and clearly would have done so successfully to tap into an empty net, but Partee brought him down with a foul. Warren whistled and pointed to the spot, but then inexplicably refused to send off Partee for denying the most obvious of goalscoring opportunities; according to Lane United head coach John Galas, Warren told LUFC captain Jon Stadler that he “didn’t want to kill the game by issuing a red card so early”—bizarre justification for failing to apply the clearly delineated rules of the game. But the rot was only just starting to surface there. Michael Bajza for Lane United stepped up to hit his first penalty and saw it saved, low and to the right, by Partee—however, the nearside assistant raised his flag to indicate that Partee had encroached off the goal line, and Warren ordered a retake of the kick. Bazja then stepped up and scored, to the left this time, only for Warren to wave it off and, instead of ordering another retake, gave Portland a direct free kick at the penalty spot.

Ward - Timbers 6:29Nothing about that decision has any basis in the FIFA Laws of the Game; there is no scenario by which a penalty kick can go in the goal, and the result can be a free kick to the defending team. After the game, one of the assistant referees suggested that the free kick (rather than a retake) had been awarded because of encroachment by Lane United, despite the fact that the Laws clearly state: “if a team-mate of the player taking the kick infringes the Laws of the Game, and if the ball enters the goal, the kick is retaken.” The fact that the assistant referee after the game was adamant—to the point of cutting off discussion—that encroachment by the attacking team results in a free kick to the defending team is indicative of a disgraceful standard of rules awareness in the entire crew. Another possibility is that Bajza was punished for stuttering during his run-up to the ball; again, the laws state that “feinting in the run-up to take a penalty kick to confuse opponents is permitted as part of football.” Feinting at the end of the run-up but before the kick, which Bazja did not do, is explicitly forbidden, and results in a caution for the offending player—and, crucially, a retake of the penalty. Bazja was not cautioned for anything during the penalty incident (he was a few minutes later, for dissent), and hence the only conclusion is that Warren woefully misapplied the rules, and to Lane United’s detriment.

The mistakes were so blatant that surely one of Warren’s three assistants should have corrected him before the game was restarted and Lane United lost their rightfully earned chance to convert a penalty kick. But that was not the case, and the match moved ahead, with Lane United clearly rattled by what Galas called “the worst refereeing performance I’ve ever seen in my life.” Portland began to assert an offensive authority not seen in the first two matches between the two teams this season, with several last-ditch blocks or clearances by Lane United’s center-halves, Stadler and Mitch LaGro, keeping the score level. In the 39th minute, Lane United produced their best chance since the penalty debacle when Isma Fernández, growing less hesitant with each passing game, cut inside his man on the left side of the box and struck a goalbound curler to the far post that Partee did excellently to stretch and get a hand to. Five minutes later, though, Portland had their goal, the product of a combination between the two mammoth Hume twins, Walker and Tucker. Walker, a center-half, made his way forward for a corner and easily won a header at the back post, directing it back across the face of goal for Tucker to nod in from only a yard or two out. Portland headed into the break riding the high of having snatched a lead right at the end of the half.

The second half, unfortunately from a Lane United perspective, did not produce the type of fightback that had taken place during the 3-3 draw between these two teams at Providence Park in May. In that match, the Reds fought back from 2-0 down at halftime, then 3-2 later, to snatch a dramatic stoppage-time equalizer through Daley Stevens. But chances to level the score in this match were scarce, thanks to a compact Timbers back line and a lack of the Reds’ typical fluid possession in midfield. Lane United’s typical cross-field balls to their advancing wing-backs were, more often than not, cut out by the opposite fullbacks, in particular Nicko DeVera on Portland’s left. The Timbers’ Sam Werner almost iced the whole affair when he slammed a thunderous effort off the crossbar in the 63rd minute, at which point the Reds had yet to see a good look at goal. Their best moment came in the 80th, when Jason Eng on the right wing finally found space for a low cross that Isma, taking it first-time in stride from 15 yards, could only hit at the goalkeeper, who parried comfortably. The substitute Riggs Lennon produced a superb save from a header just a minute later, but even had that effort gone in, it would have been disallowed for offside. That was, ultimately, Lane United’s last flurry of attacking activity, and Warren, probably desperate to escape, only added two minutes of stoppage time despite there having been 10 substitutions and four bookings (one for time-wasting) in the second half, as well as injuries which required attention from the physios.

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how bad the officiating was, we didn’t do enough to win,” Galas said. “We didn’t create enough chances and didn’t convert the ones we did take.” Some good news for the Reds did arrive later from Bremerton, Washington, where Northwest Division leaders Seattle Sounders fell to the Kitsap Pumas, 1-0—keeping the gap between Lane United and the leaders at eight points, with a game in hand for the Reds. They travel to Kitsap, Washington Crossfire and Victoria Highlanders—all below them in the current standings—in the coming two weeks before closing out the season at home at Papé Field against the Crossfire on July 15 at 7:00 pm.

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