Saturday, July 14, 2012

Back on top, Spokane Shine await Battle For Seattle result Sunday

Shine put forth best offensive effort of the season | Photos: Gerald Barnhart - Full Gallery - Facebook Gallery
The Spokane Shine did what they needed to the past couple weeks to put themselves in position to win the division title, wrapping up the campaign Sunday with a leisurely 6-0 win against the winless visiting Oregon Rush, though it was hard work beneath the baking mid-day summer heat.

“Wait by your phones,” head coach Jason Quintero told the team after the match.

The Shine now await the division’s finale – the second meeting in the Puget Sound showdown between Emerald City and Issaquah. Spokane needs Emerald City, whom they defeated Friday evening, to earn a draw or victory against now second-place Issaquah SC Sunday evening at 7:00 pm PT at Issaquah High School. EC controlled possession for much of the match Wednesday against their local rivals in a 1-1 draw in which they also hit the woodwork a couple times as well.

Player departures for college and personal reasons left an already struggling young squad from Bend with only 11 for the trip to Spokane. But the squad consisting primarily of teenagers acquitted themselves fairly well on the day, possessing the ball well at times and making the Shine, who incorporated the bench more than usual, work for their goals.

Six minutes into the match, though, the Shine scored the opener with a little bit of the luck that had eluded them this season, taking the pressure of needing a victory off. A diagonal ball in from the left side deflected directly to Chae Brown, who forced the goalkeeper to make a diving stop. Rachel Estopace got her hand to the ball, but was unable to keep it from rolling inside the post.

Lisa Robertson proved deadly from the corner yet again with two goals off her restarts. The first came in the 16th minute when Brittney Conway somehow got her head to the ball among the defense, nodding it down at the far post, where it barely squirted through the goalkeeper and the player on the post. Unsure if it had gone over, the celebration was delayed briefly before it became clear the referee deemed it had crossed the line.

Robertson was the provider again nine minutes later from the run of play, sending a perfectly-placed ball in from the left flank to an unmarked Tseng Shu-O, who finally returned to the lineup from a calf injury. The Chinese Taipei international calmly slotted the ball inside the post from 10 yards for what stood as the final goal of the half.

Despite a three-goal lead at the break, Quintero was not enamored with the overall performance in the first half.

“We did what we had to do,” he said of the result before turning toward the performance. “We were a little bit complacent at the start. Even though we had three goals we really weren’t playing well at all; and actually the halftime speech was one of the tougher ones on the players than previous games where we weren’t winning at halftime becuase we were kinda being lackadaisical and all that stuff. 

“I think it’s tough when it’s back-to-back, and [also] just the pace of the game. Oregon Rush did a good job just slowing everything down, which they needed to do, but we did what we needed to do. We ended the regular season on a high note.”

Conway netted her second of the game 24 minutes into the second half, cleaning up a thrilling series of attempts. Stacey Hamer originally started the opportunity with a long effort that caromed off the upper corner of the goal frame. Defender Chelsie gathered the rebound and sent a low second effort into the goal that forced a diving stop from the keeper that spilled out to Conway, who was on the doorstep for the easy finish that proved to be her final play of the game.

Busch sends this ball forward for a Black goal
With the game well in hand and even the bench players growing weary in the heat, Quintero decided to insert into the midfield goalkeeper Stephanie Busch, who had come out earlier for Taylor Lang after seeing very little action at her end.  The entry of Busch, who has been training as a field player much of the past month due to a shoulder injury, brought a little levity to the situation as Quintero barked out to the squad as play resumed, “everything goes through Stephanie!”

Kidding or not, the ball quickly came to the netminder seconds after walking onto the pitch and her first touch was a bit off the mark. Less than a minute later though, her presence was no longer a laughing matter as she received the ball and deftly turned to deliver a through ball that put Cassie Black behind the defense with only the keeper to beat for make the score 5-0 in the 77th minute.

With time winding down, Robertson would get her third assist on the day and second off a corner in the 89th minute, finding Amanda Hall just off the six for an easy finish into a wide open goal from close range.

Now everything is dependent on 90 minutes between a pair of rivals on the other side of the state.

“We’ll see what happens tomorrow,” Quintero said of their immediate future. 

“I just thanked [the team] for their time and dedication. Thought it was really neat the evolution of a team and how it progresses throughout the season with the ups and the downs; players getting hurt and players coming in; and players leaving and players coming in. I just told ‘em good job and thanks for the season. It has been a really good year for us; 6-2-2 is nothing to be ashamed of.”

Oregon’s coach Kyle Steinbaugh also had good things to say about his youthful side that gutted out a good performance in blistering conditions.

“I think we played well. We are a very, very young team. Very young – I think we have three girls that have graduated from college on that group that just played,” Steinbaugh said after the match. “They did well, they possessed it. It’s tough with the heat – I mean we have all the excuses in the world but the fact of the matter is we played a better team than us today and there is some things we need to work on as a group.

“One of those things is commitment, because our commitment hasn’t been there obviously, travelling with 11on the last game of the season.

“We possessed the ball well; at times we played pretty well. I thought we got out and ran a couple times, which is our strength as a team, but we made some silly young mistakes also.”

While Portland may be Oregon’s soccer capital, the Rush WPSL experience in 2012 may provide a wave of quality talent coming out of Bend for the next few years.

“We are all local girls from Bend; and what a great experience for these girls to be ready for college playing at this level. High school for them next year is gonna be a joke really, and then after that you go into college where these girls are gonna be ready from playing at this level,” he said of their future. “Mostly U17, U18 today, so obviously it’s tough when you are O-and-whatever we were coming into today. It’s hard on a summer afternoon to get everyone in a car and drive seven hours to go play a soccer game. So we took the girls that wanted to commit to it – great learning experience for these girls and hopefully for the other ones that didn’t come.

“We have five girls that already left for college – three of them are attending University of Oregon, one of them is at Arizona and another one took some time off before she went to college out east. So that would have bolstered our group a lot to be completely fair,” he said about the early departures. “We brought in a young goalkeeper for us that did very well I thought. I don’t think we could fault her on any goals except for maybe that second one where she just spilled it on the line.”

Scoring Summary

Chae Brown 6; Brittney Conway (Lisa Robertson) 16; Tseng Shu-O (Lisa Robertson) 27; Brittney Conway 69; Cassie Black (Stephanie Busch) 77; Amanda Hall (Lisa Robertson) 89

Around the Division

The division’s slate wraps up with a pair of games Sunday. The early game at Gladstone High School in Portland (3:00 pm PT) features a showdown for state pride between the Portland Rain and Eugene Metro FC. Eugene is three points back of the fourth-place Rain with a chance to win the head-to-head season series with a two-goal victory, which would also put them in front of their state rivals in the table. The Rain won the first meeting in Eugene 2-1 June 15. Portland, meanwhile, can claim third in the division if they win and Emerald City fails to get full points in Issaquah.

The Battle For Seattle, though, at 7:00 is where eyes not only across the state, but around the nation, particularly in California, will be focused.

WPSL Playoffs

The Northwest Division champion already knows who it will face, to some degree, in the postseason. The victorious club will travel to San Diego where they will play the host SeaLions in the opening conference semifinal match at 5:00 pm PT July 21. The second semifinal will be Salt Lake United versus the winner of the Pacific-North Division, where numerous teams were in contention going into Saturday’s slate. The winners will advance to the conference final at 4:00 pm the next day at host Cathedral Catholic High School.