Victoria Highlanders 7, Lane United 0
Lane United FC crashed to a 7-0 home defeat to the Victoria Highlanders Sunday evening, in an attractive and often evenly contested match in which only one team was able to provide any end product in front of goal. One statistic goes a long way to explaining everything: Lane United out-shot Victoria 18 to 13, but still managed to lose by seven. Coach John Galas said afterward that he was “frustrated because our team created some of our best chances all season, five or six really good chances, and we couldn’t do a thing with them.” By contrast, Victoria provided some incredibly accomplished finishing, the pick of them probably being the last kick of the game when Cameron Stokes chipped Matt Bersano from the corner of the penalty box and saw the ball nestle in off the underside of the crossbar. It was a fitting end to the game — almost anything the Highlanders tried in front of goal came off perfectly, while anything the hosts did was always a few feet off from success.
No clear-cut chances had passed for either team until the 16th minute, when Jack O’Connor, starting at left fullback, brought down the Victoria forward Ian Greedy as he raced past on the right side of the penalty box. Riley O’Neil calmly converted the penalty for the lead, then inadvertently created the second goal fifteen minutes later when he mis-hit a shot from the edge of the box, which was deflected and popped out of the forest of bodies at the feet of Cam Hundal, standing all alone 12 yards from goal. His finish, too, was calm and unerring with Bersano charging him down, and suddenly Victoria were two up. The last action before halftime saw Lane United’s best chance when Josep Baldoví was played through but denied by the legs of the onrushing Brandon Watson, out from Victoria’s net.
The Reds carried some of the hope from the end of the first half into the beginning of the second, but it was dashed when Carlo Basso scored Victoria’s third in the 53rd minute. Andrew Ravenhill made an interception, bombed down the left wing and played an inch-perfect ball across the face of goal for Basso to smash in at the back post. The pattern of the goal underscored what would be a continual problem for LUFC and their tired legs — seemingly harmless turnovers in midfield suddenly transitioning into ruthless breakaways for the opponents, as few of the players in red had the energy to keep up with, much less disrupt, the Victoria players streaming forward. Four games in eight days had clearly exhausted them physically, although Galas wouldn’t take it as an excuse, indicating that he thought his players “had left their heads back in the building watching the World Cup game beforehand.” He added that “it’s been a long week, and I thought a 4-0 loss in Seattle would get it into their heads that they need to be more focused to succeed at this level, but maybe it takes seven at home for them to understand.”
Asked whether he thought 7-0 was an unfair scoreline, Galas demurred, suggesting that soccer is a sport where results are “100% decided” by teams being able to make the most of their limited number of chances, and that “today’s score proves that nicely.” At 4-0 after 70 minutes, Lane United were throwing everything at the goal but still failing to find the net, with Baldo missing by inches on a fantastic volley in the box and Conner Bevans getting played in behind the defense twice in five minutes. Watson saved his first shot, then forced him too wide when Bevans tried to round him a few minutes later. As soon as they had weathered that storm, Victoria got their fifth off what might have been an accidental shot from Sam Prette, then soon added the sixth off a route-one flick and finish between Greedy and Stokes, respectively. There was little anyone could do about Stokes’ brilliant chip for the seventh, and when the final whistle blew immediately afterward, the Highlanders had the biggest margin of victory in their 7-year history. Lane United now have four full days to recuperate before facing the Puget Sound Gunners in Issaquah on Friday.