Match Report: Lane United FC vs Victoria Highlanders FC
May 22, 2016
Eight days on from the first scoreless draw in the club’s history, Lane United FC produced a second, this time against the Victoria Highlanders on a cool, gray evening in Springfield. Whereas last week’s contest against the reigning division champion Kitsap Pumas had an open feel despite the ultimate dearth of goals, tonight’s was a cagier affair, at least until the final ten minutes. Victoria, no doubt feeling the strain of their second game in 30 hours after their dramatic 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers U-23s on Friday afternoon, defaulted to a rigid defensive shape when not in possession. The Reds out-shot the Highlanders 10 to 6, none more notable than when Vicente Mora had what seemed like a certain goal spectacularly, barely saved by Brandon Watson in second-half stoppage time.
Lane United head coach John Galas said that his side “knew what we would get against Victoria in their position—two banks of four and numbers behind the ball—and we got what we expected. We just found it really difficult to break down and the sharpness in front of goal never materialized.” The opening exchanges of the match actually had gone against that pattern, with Victoria creating several opportunities in the first few minutes, only to find Ben Willis in the Lane United goal typically up to the task of denying them. He now has 270 consecutive minutes of clean-sheet time to his name to open the season, not an insignificant achievement. After only two minutes, Callum Montgomery, a defender, eked out a sidefooted shot in penalty-area traffic after a corner that Willis had to dive to save, and Blair Sturrock was given a chance to shoot from 25 yards a minute later, but fired straight at the Gonzaga man. Moreover, Victoria, for the first half at least, had the legs to run a high press that occasionally forced worrying giveaways out of the Lane United midfield; Lane United were on some occasions able to exploit that strategy with long diagonals to the wide channels. Isma Fernandez got several decent crosses in from the right wing and Jose Terron from the left, but nothing beyond the odd half-chance ever materialized from that progress.
As the game wore on and Highlander legs wore out, the match settled into a pattern with more consistent Lane United possession. The balance of chances remained about even throughout the second half, though, as Victoria tended to threaten Lane United on long balls and counter attacks and occasionally came close to scoring, like when Cam Stokes forced a diving save from Willis on a low 20-yard shot after 70 minutes. The 80-minute mark seemed to magically spur both teams to throw everything at the net, however, and the final ten minutes plus stoppage time produced a series of increasingly dramatic chances for both sides. First, at 81 minutes, Isma bounced a free kick a few inches wide of a concerned Watson’s right-hand post. On the other end a minute later, Victoria thought they had a penalty after Stadler bumped into the substitute Mitch Popadynetz; from the ensuing corner Victoria directed an awkward bouncing header on frame that Willis had to save. Soon afterward, Michael North was waltzing through the Lane United defense and taking a free shot from the edge of the penalty box, which Willis flew to his right to reach and push wide. Lane United then lay siege to the Victoria goal, with a few neat combinations around the penalty area that did not quite produce a final attempt on goal, and a chance for Isma to shoot from the top left corner of the box that could not quite find the top right corner of the net before Watson caught it.
Finally, with the goalmouth action reaching a crescendo, Lane United produced the best chance for either team all night, several minutes into stoppage time. A ball was hoisted into the box in the direction of the 6’4” Stefan Tomasevic, who comfortably won his header and nodded down for Vicente Mora to his left, about 10 yards out. Mora fired off a left-footed half-volley that Watson somehow got down and scraped enough of a fingertip to to make the ball trickle around the back post and out for a corner. Once that was cleared, the final whistle blew, and the Reds are now left to look forward to their second away tie of the season to the Portland Timbers U-23s, Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Providence Park.