Lane United FC 2, Portland Timbers U-23s 0
Lane United FC secured its first home shutout victory of the 2015 PDL season, beating the Portland Timbers U-23s 2-0 in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd at the Willamalane Center. Portland would have come into the match heavy favorites for any neutral observer, sitting at second in the PDL Northwest Division on 21 points compared to Lane United’s 5, but the Reds looked sharper throughout and were rewarded with two goals in quick succession early in the second half. The tragedy of watching their hoped-for future home, Eugene’s Civic Stadium, burn to the ground earlier in the week seemed to have inspired the Reds and their fans both to an unusually impassioned performance: the Red Aces supporters’ group unfurled a banner with the theme of rebuilding at halftime, while Lane United head coach John Galas said after the match that there had been a tacit understanding in the locker room that the team needed to deliver its best possible response on the field in light of the events. After going two goals up, with their second league victory and a rare clean sheet in sight, the Reds back line defended with the utmost intensity while the midfielders and forwards broke out a bamboozling array of one-touch passing patterns and individual dribbling moves, emanating a confidence that simply hadn’t been seen at any point in any league match so far this season.
Both teams waded tepidly into the first half, with few chances developing in the opening exchanges besides the reigning PDL Player of the Week Todd Wharton chunking a sidefooted effort wide from 15 yards after 10 minutes of play. All of a sudden, in the 25th minute, the match broke open as Timothy Mueller and Josep Baldoví combined usefully, not for the first or last time, moving in from the right wing and Mueller shot low, forcing Portland keeper Eric Dick into a diving save; 30 seconds later Portland’s Ben White was in on goal at the other end but over-hit his attempt to chip Matt Bersano; and no less than a minute after that Jordan Jones roped a sweet connection just over the crossbar back in the Timbers’ penalty area. The rest of the first half was bogged down by injuries, as both Portland’s Dennis Castillo and Lane United’s Brenden Anderson had to be substituted, the latter after an off-the-ball collision with White that neither referee Andrew Brooks nor any one of his assistants noticed.
Lane United began the second half by taking a few hefty knocks on the Timbers’ door, with Jones, Mueller and Baldo almost combining at the edge of the box only to be denied at the last inch by a recovering tackle from Andrew Lewis. Richy Hurtado then put Mueller in on goal a few minutes later with a long ball over the top, and Mueller uncharacteristically skied his finish well over the bar. But Portland were offered no reprieve ten minutes into the half when Matthias Binder, who was outstanding on the left wing as soon as he had come on for Daley Stevens at halftime, found Jones cutting in behind the back line in the penalty box; he stretched out a toe before the goalkeeper could arrive on the scene and the ball trickled into the net for a 1-0 Lane United lead. The next goal followed soon after, with the birthday boy Mueller picking up his eighth league goal of the season; Jones was the first to meet a cross from the right wing, but after his attempt at a header was deflected aimlessly toward the penalty spot, Mueller accepted the birthday gift by being on hand to blast it into the roof of the net with a first-time volley.
The Reds were doubtless mindful at this point of their away match at the Puget Sound Gunners in May, when they had surrendered a two-goal lead and come away with only a point after a 3-3 draw. The second-half back line of Dirk van der Velde, Cristian de Luis, Jonathan Stadler and Casey ChubbFertal, backed up by Bersano in goal, made sure there would be no such concessions on this occasion. Bersano, whom Galas called the man of the match, made the save of the night in the 84th minute to keep the lead at two, reaching high to push Anthony Macchione’s close-range shot over the bar. The back four, including Cristian Couto who came on as a late substitute for van der Velde, cut out most crosses and threatening developments, only once allowing a clear chance, when Romilio Hernandez of the Timbers blasted off the crossbar from 20 yards. Galas said that the clean sheet was “massive” and called the overall second-half performance the team’s best of the season. “We were intelligent and confident going forward even when we were up, but with Matty in goal and the back line defending really diligently, I thought the clean sheet was all that the guys deserved.”
Lane United will stay at home and face the Washington Crossfire on Thursday, July 9, in their final home league match of the season before playing an exhibition against EPLWA side Bellingham United on July 12 and then traveling to Calgary for their final match, on July 15, against FC Calgary Foothills.