Portland Timbers U-23s 1, Lane United FC 0
Lane United FC finished its inaugural PDL season with a 1-0 loss at home to the Portland Timbers U23s. As in the first contest between these two on July 1, Dennis Castillo scored Portland’s only goal, blasting a shot in off the underside of the crossbar in the 66th minute—only this time there would be no late comeback from the Reds. The closest they came to equalizing was a fluke 20-yard deflection off Joseph Bolous, which forced a tremendous save out of Brendan Moore in goal. Otherwise, the Timbers played assured defense in protecting their advantage and what had started out an open, fast-paced match fizzled to a close in the final minutes.
The Timbers very high-pressure defense led to a couple of chances in the opening ten minutes as Lane United struggled to string passes together. There were two goal-mouth scrambles in a row from corners in the sixth minute, which the Reds ended up surviving. They settled into the game soon after, creating chances of their own, none better than when an unmarked Pancho Vizcaino headed over the crossbar from a corner kick. The kick itself had been forced by a sprawling save from a shot by Baldo, who was Lane United’s star performer on the night. For a span of about 20 minutes in the first half, Portland’s defenders could barely touch him, let alone contain him, as he repeatedly collected the ball under pressure, beat the first man or two and looked to start attacks. Baldo’s countryman Eleazar Ocaña, making his first start for Lane United, initially misplayed several passes but eventually settled in enough to ping a 30-yard rabona to Dirk van der Velde at the start of the second half to break open an attack that ended with Bolous getting a decent shot on goal.
Kharlton Belmar showed himself to be Portland’s most dangerous player by virtue of his blazing speed. Casey Phillips and Luke Connolly only lost track of him twice, once when he broke down the right in the 60th minute and slightly underhit a shot that allowed Chris Lowrimore to make a diving save. The other instance was the goal a few minutes later, where Belmar received the ball in the box with enough space to cut a cross back across the face of the goal for Dennis Castillo to thump home from 15 yards out at the back post. Before that, the Reds had been enjoying their best attacking of the game, coming closest when Baldo toe-poked a volley over the bar from eight yards after Luke Connolly headed a cross down for him. Chronopolous also started the second half by sneaking in behind the back line only to be closed down instantly by Moore, out off his line.
After their goal, Portland scaled their frenetic pressure back a notch and stonewalled most of Lane United’s ventures forward. Two minutes after the goal, Lane United shouted for a penalty after the ball clearly struck a defender’s hand off of a cross from Baldo, although the referee, Oscar Rivas, either didn’t see the incident or deemed it unintentional. Head coach John Galas said afterward that he thought it was a “clear handball,” saying that “the guys worked all season, and they worked especially hard tonight, only to end up dealing with a ref who was average at best.” Portland’s Reed McKenna should have been cautioned for persistent infringement after six fouls in the first seventy minutes, several of which stifled forward attacks, but Rivas refused to even have a word with the Portland forward. The conclusion of the match was broken up by substitutions and fouls from both teams, and after the final whistle, Lane United’s Rolando Velazquez was given a second yellow card for dissent. The result ended up being Lane United’s sixth one-goal loss of the season.
Galas said that he was “immensely proud of the team’s effort recently, ever since our bad week back in June. The guys really showed commitment to improve and give a good result to our fans, who are the best in the league. I can’t fault anyone’s commitment on or off the field.” The last match of the season comes on Tuesday, against the non-PDL side Vancouver Victory. That match is at the Willamalane Center at 7:00 p.m.