Washington Crossfire 3, Lane United FC 1
Washington Crossfire beat a nine-man Lane United FC side 3-1 in Redmond, Washington on Sunday afternoon. The Reds were ahead courtesy of Alex Pantoja’s brilliant individual goal seven minutes into the match but failed to add to their advantage before disaster struck in the form of Jordan Jones being sent off for two cautionable offenses in quick succession at the tail end of the first half. The Crossfire equalized through Beau Blanchard — arguably topping Pantoja for individual skill and beauty — in the 52nd minute before the Reds’ problems were compounded by the expulsion of goalkeeper Chris Lowrimore for handling the ball outside his penalty area and denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity in the process. Lane United were forced to insert defender Brenden Anderson at goalkeeper, Matt Bersano having been suspended after his red card on Friday, and though he acquitted himself well and the nine-man Reds were able to still produce attacking spells, they were powerless to stop the Crossfire’s two winning goals eventually flying in.
In front of a crowd of no more than 30 fans, Lane United started off the match in clear control, and were rewarded by Pantoja’s silky early goal. Picking up possession from a loose ball at the top right corner of the box, he croquetaed through two challenges, cut inside and blasted an unstoppable finish with the outside of his right boot into the top left corner of Crossfire goalkeeper Tyler Visten’s net. For long stretches after the highlight-reel goal, however, Lane United conceded their superiority and survived a number of scares in their own box from Crossfire crosses and set-pieces. The Reds almost doubled their lead anyway in the 39th minute when Raul Muntean at the back post met a perfect cross from Amer Sasivarevic — one of Lane United’s standout performers on the night — only to see his volley denied by a sprawling save from Visten.
Shortly afterward, the Reds’ troubles began. Jones was initially yellow-carded for getting in a wrestling match off the ball with Michael Gallagher, a Crossfire center-half. Gallagher was also cautioned for his role in the incident. Only a minute later, Jones committed a late challenge on a Crossfire defender who was clearing the ball, and center referee Jeff Arthur-Holtz produced another yellow, followed by a red. The Reds went into halftime clinging to a 1-0 lead regardless, but it evaporated in the 52nd minute when Washington’s Blanchard, starting on the left touchline, beat two defenders, rouletted past another and then, figuring the fates were on his side, let fly with an incredible 20-yard shot that curled a few inches inside Lowrimore’s far post. A few minutes later, the plot thickened when Crossfire forward Hamza Haddadi picked the ball off the feet of Chris Lowrimore; he then attempted to pass the ball into the unguarded net from 20 yards, only to have Lowrimore lay out at his feet and stop the shot with his hands just outside the penalty box. It was a simple sending-off decision at that point, although Lane United head coach John Galas thought that Haddadi had fouled Lowrimore when he won the ball: “At the time I thought it was a foul, but I’d have to watch film of it to confirm.” Because of goalkeeper Matt Bersano’s suspension, also for a last-man incident, in the Sounders U23 match on Friday night, Lane United were forced to throw Brenden Anderson, more comfortable as a center-back, in goal to replace Lowrimore.
Down to nine men and with a field player in goal, the Crossfire’s comeback seemed inevitable, although Lane United defended and even attacked bravely in their attempts to resist it. In the 66th minute, though, Haddadi did break down the Reds’ back line, holding the ball up in a crowd at the top of the box before slipping it out wide to Mason Robertson, who slotted a mostly uncontested shot from 15 yards low past Anderson. Haddadi also assisted the final insurance goal, in the 89th minute, heading across the box for another substitute, Nicco Piacentini, to nod home. In the meantime, the Reds had actually created a few chances, including Rolando Velazquez dragging a shot wide and several corners being swung into the box, but it was ultimately too little and too late. Galas lamented his team’s inability to “manage the match with the early lead and get 3 points on the road.” “We didn’t play well enough to win,” he said, “and we made too many mental and physical mistakes. We deserved everything we got today.”
The Reds return to Oregon for a spate of five home games starting with a match against PDL newcomers FC Calgary on Friday, June 5 at 7:00 p.m. at the Willamalane Center. They then play four more home matches in June before eventually getting back on the road for a June 27 contest against Kitsap Pumas.