Match Recap – Timbers U23, June 14
Lane United played its first ever game in Bend, Oregon Thursday night, and those who weren’t in attendance missed out on some of the best drama the PDL can offer. The Portland Timbers FC U23 hosted the match at Summit High School as part of their sponsorship agreement with exceptional local golf resort, Tetherow, also a longtime sponsor of Lane United. While not live-streamed for the interested viewers worldwide, the in-state rivals battled to an unforgettable 3-3 draw in front of a curious Bend crowd, and a raucous traveling contingent of LUFC’s own Red Aces.
Under the beautiful sky of the high-desert dusk, the game kicked off dramatically with some sloppy midfield play by Lane United leading to a simple, yet incisive, direct pass from deep-lying Timbers midfielder Camden RIley toward the LUFC box. An interested Benji Michel didn’t need to be asked twice to engage in the awkward dance center-half Julius Fohr and onrushing keeper Paul Kruse had created for themselves, Michel gliding between them and prodding the ball into the gaping net.
The opening goal was a bit of a slap to the face of the Reds, who were trying to replicate the gritty form that saw them earn a rare draw in Calgary, and beat the Timbers at home 3-2 in dramatic fashion. The slap didn’t land hard enough though, with the remainder of the first half being somewhat unremarkable other than a predictably well-worked free kick by the diminutive Rey Ortiz which glanced the outside of Kruse’s post. Most of the first half excitement came from the small West Stand at Sunset High School that had been taken over by the Red Aces, their drums, flags, and famous tifo.
With some tactical direction, and a halftime kick up the backside from head coach John Galas, the Reds worked themselves into the second half with some renewed vigor. A Tony Macchione goal was adjudged to have been offside due to lack of intent on a backpass from the Portland defense, but that was merely a reflection of the pressing and intent from the tireless Macchione. With the Reds playing higher and higher up the pitch looking for the equalizer, disaster struck, and not in the way one would suspect. Instead of being subjected to a counter attack due to their pressing, LUFC were undone by a loose ball squirting to the back post off a corner-kick, only to be poked in by the ever-diligent and un-marked Benji Michel.
After the effort put in to get back in the game, especially by Macchione who was running himself ragged alone in attack, it would be understandable if that were the end of the story, but the Reds were just getting started. The Timbers goal offered Macchione support instead of relief. Sam Engle had been stripped and ready to replace Macchione, but once the Reds went down 2-0, Engle’s substitution card read Binder instead. Binder had been fighting in a holding midfield role for over an hour, in spite of suffering from illness all week, but down by two goals, it was time to change formation, leaving Jose Benavides alone to protect the back four while Engle partnered Macchione up top.
The change of score and the change of formation led immediately to a change in the game. The Reds were now controlling the pace and structure of the proceedings. The Timbers midfield had collapsed upon its defensive ranks, and were taking every opportunity to poke the ball aimlessly forward into space hoping the immensely talented and athletic front line could make something of the undirected service. Gio Magana-Rivera and Timur Zhividze were brought on for the Timbers hoping to gain a bit of control in midfield for the Timbers, but Lane United’s dominance continued, albeit with a lack of real chances on goal other than Sergio Diaz flashing a loose ball off the crossbar from the edge of the box.
The Reds finally clawed themselves back into the game in the 76th minute when Sam Engle took a deep cross from Sergio Diaz and headed it back across goal and past Timbers keeper Mario Sequeira, meeting the diving head of the on-rushing Tony Macchione. Macchione immediately scooped the ball out of the back of the net and sprinted back to midfield in order to go look for the equalizer. The Reds thought they had a lifeline for that equalizer when a ball popped out of the box off a corner only for Diaz to smash it back on frame, past the keeper, and have it saved off the line by the Timbers’ Wouter Verstraaten, by all eyes except the officials’ with his hands. The official assessment was that Verstraaten blocked the shot with his face, so after some treatment, neither bloody-nosed nor concussion-related, Wouter returned to the fray to ward of the impending equalizer.
That equalizer came just minutes later when a well worked LUFC move left Engle with the ball facing goal inside the Timbers box, and instead of lashing a shot, he astutely found a sliding Casey ChubbFertal at the far post after a gut-busting run from mid-field. An equalizer in the 85th usually results in an unintentional detente, but not in this match. A Timbers corner two minutes into stoppage would normally not amount to anything once half-cleared by the Reds’ defense, but Gio Magana-Rivera had other ideas, smashing a sublime half-volley through traffic off the rebound into the back of Kruse’s net. While the Timbers celebrated wildly, the Reds’ regrouped for kickoff, and did what they had to. They went right back to their quick passing possession game and once again sprung ChubbFertal out of the left-back position who then beat his man, powered a low cross past the keeper, and found an unmarked Willie Spurr inside the six-yard box for a tap in, Engle and Macchione having made runs that ripped the Timbers’ defense open.
At the end of a beautiful evening in Bend, Oregon, the in-state PDL rivals left their respective coaches nerve-racked and shaking their heads in post-game handshakes while the Red Aces cheered the away-day triumph of a dramatic point, and the locals were treated to a Northwest Classic. On this night, the Reds showed grace under pressure in a game they simply refused to lose.