Match Report: Lane United FC @ Portland Timbers U-23s

May 25, 2016
Eugene native Daley Stevens headed in a stoppage-time equalizer to secure Lane United FC a point in an outrageously action-packed 3-3 draw against the Portland Timbers U-23s at Providence Park on Tuesday. Earlier in the game, former Reds Timothy Mueller and Jordan Jones bagged the goals for Portland, with Mueller’s first-half brace ensuring that Lane United would not endure a third consecutive scoreless draw even as it raised fears that the Reds might be on the receiving end of a shellacking. Two quick goals to start the second half, from Isma Fernandez and Vicente Mora, brought the contest level. Lane United then spent the final half-hour down 3-2 before Stevens rose at the back post to nod in a Matt Coffey cross and ensure that the Reds would not return home empty-handed after their cohesive performance in front of thousands of fans in one of the country’s footballing fortresses.

 

The match opened with end-to-end action that scarcely let up for the duration of the 90 minutes. After five minutes, Akeem Ward was denied his first Lane United goal by a strong diving save from Portland’s Nils Leifhelm, and less than a minute later at the other end Luis Barazza, making his first start in goal for Lane United, had to throw his legs in front of a close-range volley from Mueller to make an equally impressive reaction stop. Mueller couldn’t be denied for his next chance, though, when a Timbers break led to him being slotted down the left channel; he sidefooted comfortably to the back post for a 1-0, 12th-minute lead—Lane United’s first goal conceded after 282 minutes of the new season. Mueller then created, almost entirely by himself, a brilliant chance to add to his tally a few minutes later by outleaping everyone to meet a floating cross and power it on goal, but Barazza stretched and made a spectacular top-hand save to push the ball over the bar.

 

The teams exchanged shots, crosses, nearly-missed through balls and all other manner of attacking sorties for the next half-hour, but by the end of the half Portland had started to squeeze the game just slightly. They skirted the edge of the Lane United box for the final five minutes before halftime before the Reds made a hash of a clearance from a left-wing cross and the ball fell to Mueller 15 yards out. Rather than panic, he pushed the ball to his right to open up a shooting space and blasted in with his right foot with almost the last kick of the half. Lane United, already down for the first time all season, suddenly had a significantly more imposing task ahead of them returning from the break, but their turnaround was almost immediate. Only three minutes into the second half, the Reds’ persistence around the Portland penalty box was rewarded when a rebound from a Jose Carlos Terrón shot at the back post fell conveniently to Isma, who turned and passed it into the net for 2-1. The Reds continued to pour forward and boss the game until the 55th minute when Binder found himself in loads of space to drop in a cross from the right wing, which landed on the head of Mora—unforgivably, from a Portland perspective, left unmarked eight yards from goal—to tuck away with a calm headed finish.

 

It seemed Lane United’s fightback was complete and that the match would restart from square one at 2-2, but the Reds immediately conceded for a third time to Jordan Jones, who was played into the penalty box on the ground and got off a low finish through the legs of a recovering, slide-tackling Jonathan Stadler. Stadler, as has been his wont all season, was rarely in the wrong place on the day, disrupting or denying entry passes to Mueller for as long as he was on the pitch, but Portland had exploited an awkward gap in the center of defense for the third goal. But Lane United almost immediately began to create chances for the equalizer, first when Ward, who was also excellent all game, nearly capitalized on a miscommunication between the Portland back line and goalkeeper and tried to chip into a vacated net from 30 yards. Then came the Reds’ best chance until the equalizer, when superb combination play released Isma down the right wing and he crossed to Terrón crashing in unnoticed at the back post. One of the Timbers’ recovering center-backs, though, got just the faintest touch on the ball to redirect it into Terrón’s midsection and the ball actually bounced away off of him, with the open goal beckoning from inside the six-yard box.

 

Lane United continued to chip away and in the 90th minute, the substitute Coffey spooned an awkward bouncing ball over the bar from close range amid the chaos caused by a long Casey ChubbFertal throw-in. In stoppage time, the Reds finally drew level with their hosts. Coffey and Stadler were up against only one fullback on the right wing, and the latter patiently worked the former into an unhurried, unchallenged crossing opportunity. His looping delivery was expertly dropped at the back post where Stevens—like Mora earlier, shockingly unmarked at close range—directed an expert header down and in before the goalkeeper could get across. Deep into stoppage time, the Reds celebrated, but Stevens’ goal still wouldn’t be the last action of the game, as the Timbers’ Geoffrey Dee then strode forward after the kickoff and decided to let fly from over 30 yards. The hit was pure and Barazza looked beaten all ends up, and the crowd cheered as the ball rippled the net—the outside of the side netting. It was the last kick of the game.

 

“I think this is the type of game that will reassure us later on in the season when our backs are against the wall, that we can still create quality chances and claw our way back,” said Lane United FC head coach John Galas. “I told the guys at halftime that we couldn’t feel sorry for ourselves, that we’d gone 2-0 down to two mistakes—correctable mistakes as far as the rest of the season is concerned—and challenged them to get a goal within the first 15 minutes of the second half to make it a game again, and they did that. This felt like a win, not that we stole a point, because with the amount of chances we created we absolutely deserved something—but the mood in the locker room afterward was like a win. It was a brilliant collective effort. The starters got the comeback going and two subs, Coffey and Daley, finished it.”

 

The Reds remain unbeaten heading into a 10-day break, at the conclusion of which they face the Seattle Sounders U23 away in Washington on June 3.