Portland Timbers U-23s 2, Lane United FC 0
Lane United FC fell to a 2-0 defeat in its first Premier Development League match of 2015, outmatched by a Portland Timbers U-23s side that created excellent scoring chances from start to finish. The Reds, who warmed up with a 3-1 win over non-league competition in South Sound FC last weekend, fell victim to Portland’s much more incisive attacking. The Timbers hit the crossbar twice and had a shot cleared off the line in the first half, then kicked the door in with two second-half goals, the first from Ivan Alvarado off a free kick rebound and the second from Ben White, Portland’s best player on the day, slotting home an inch-perfect cross. Lane United were not without chances, the best being Timothy Mueller’s mid-second-half shot that cracked off Portland ‘keeper Collin Partee’s near post. But in the end the hosts probably deserved their victory; LUFC head coach John Galas said that he was “thrilled with (Lane United’s) effort, but the guys just weren’t quite as sharp today as they had been in training.”
The match was played in front of an announced crowd of 4,921; most of them were schoolchildren on end-of-year field trips, but nonetheless the venue and the noise produced a big-game atmosphere that the Reds will be unlikely to encounter in any one of their away matches the rest of the season. “The Timbers away will never be easy, and especially not with an atmosphere like this,” Galas said. Lane United produced the first chance of the game when Isma was allowed to shoot after 30 seconds, but his effort was straight at Partee. The Timbers and Reds exchanged chances after that, with Greg Timmer for the Timbers smacking a 22-yard shot off the crossbar and Mueller shooting just wide when he snapped up a rebound in a congested box after a Lane United corner. Portland responded a minute later by coming literally inches from scoring, Devon Fisher beating Matt Bersano with a header off a corner only to see Baldo clear it off the goal-line with his own head. Baldo picked up a yellow card in the 20th minute and was substituted off with an injury in the middle of the second half, but the rest of the Reds will still be indebted to him for that spectacular piece of last-ditch defending.
Gaps started to appear in the back of both teams’ midfields at the end of the first half, the lack of match fitness at the start of the season perhaps playing a role. Lane United ended the first half on a high note with a few forays forward that were a misplayed final ball or a last-second tackle away from producing chances, but Portland came back from halftime a rejuvenated bunch. Within a minute Bersano had to sprint off his line to deny Ivan Alvarado from reaching a through-ball at the edge of the box. And 10 minutes later, Lane United were lucky not to concede a goal or any cards when Alvarado was fouled one yard outside the penalty box after being played through again. From the ensuing free kick, Bersano saved an effort headed for his top right-hand corner, but his rebound couldn’t get past Alvarado at the side of the six yard box. He stabbed his foot out to control, then turned and roofed his shot past a helpless Bersano.
The center of Lane United’s defense saw another warning shot in the 65th minute when Timmer somehow missed from six yards off a cross from White on the right wing, and a moment later Mueller hit the post for Lane United after carving out space for a shot on the left side of the box. Soon after, though, the Reds were down two, with Geoffrey Dee sliding a perfect cross for his strike partner White to crash home from 8 yards. The match was mostly settled after that point, with Mueller coming closest to pulling something back by chesting to himself for a bottom-corner-bound full volley from 22 yards that forced a diving save out of Partee. Ismael Fernández looked like he might have had a penalty claim in the 88th minute, but after deliberating for a second, the referee, CJ Koll, chose not to give the foul.
The Reds return home to face the Kitsap Pumas, the reigning champions of the PDL Northwest Division and national runners-up for 2014, at the Willamalane Center at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 16. “Despite the loss today, we’re all really excited for Saturday,” Galas said. “The Red Aces were incredible today, what with 50 of them or so making the trip … on behalf of all of the guys, I give a huge thanks to them and look forward to seeing what they can do for us at home against Kitsap.”