Friday, July 13, 2012

Final weekend a tough task for Spokane Shine with postseason at stake

The bench has played a key role for the Shine this season
The Spokane Shine will be front and center for the first two days of the weekend, playing host to two games that have playoff implications before all is said and done Sunday in the second half of the Battle for Seattle. The Shine host fellow playoff contender Emerald City Friday at 7:00 pm PT and the winless Oregon Rush Saturday afternoon at 2:00 pm PT. Both games are at Joe Albi Stadium.

Both the Shine and visiting Emerald City sit four points back of Issaquah SC, whom Emerald City plays again Sunday at 7:00 pm PT. The two clubs played to a 1-1 deadlock Wednesday evening in the Puget Sound showdown. While the result provided the Shine with two of the three points they needed Issaquah to drop to keep them in play, it made the weekend a lot more anxious and the scenarios a little more complicated with a three-way tie among the potential outcomes.

The Shine are coming off a positive weekend in which they posted a pair of 1-0 victories that directly eliminated Eugene Metro FC and Portland Rain out of postseason contention. Unfortunately, sometimes a win can also be a loss – as was the case Sunday.

“Darci [Smith] is out for the season. She hurt her knee so she is out for the rest of the season, even if we make playoffs,” said Jason Quintero about losing yet another player to injury this season.

Darci Smith out for the season
“It was tough,” he said of the situation. “We were one-nil for so long and it was so hot.”

Then everything went wrong. Portland captain Nicole Strong needed attention for the heat in the final moments of the match, creating a lengthy delay that led to about six minutes of stoppage time. Four minutes into the added-on time, Smith went down with the knee injury.

“[It] is a huge loss; she got the game-winner – great header off of a corner kick. She really came on strong the last few weeks and was a huge part of what we were doing.

“She will obviously be missed but it’s just another opportunity for another player to step in and take her spot and hopefully do well.”

It may seem like coach cliché, but Quintero and the Shine have been surviving the season with its depth, calling on player after player in positions all around the field to fill the needed gaps. 

Now they have just one last weekend to get through at Joe Albi Stadium, and with a little luck elsewhere Sunday the players that have kept the team in the hunt will earn themselves a well-deserved trip to California for the WPSL playoffs.

“Probably the two biggest games in the young history of the organization,” said Quintero. “Obviously we don’t have a chance to control our own destiny, but I like where we’re sitting as far as our chances to win the next two games if we play how we’ve been playing of late.

“And then obviously it’s up to Issaquah to drop points. But we can’t worry too much about that; we’re just really focused on Friday for Emerald City and it’s gonna be a tough game.”

Busch guides division-leading defense
The last time the two sides met, the pair played to a scoreless stalemate June 16, the only match in the division thus far this season to finish without a goal. The Shine outshot the hosts 12-10 on the night. Julissa Rodriguez of the Tri-Cities fired a shot off the post and Emerald City hit the woodwork twice themselves. Stephanie Busch, battling a shoulder injury, recorded a second straight shutout. 

Busch and the defense, led by Maggie Schrader, have been key for the Shine this season as the offense has had difficulty finding the back of the net with regularity. The team has scored only four goals in the past six games since posting five in the second game of the campaign on the road against the Oregon Rush, who have since allowed 44 goals in the seven games since. In fact, the Shine have been shutout four times this season, whereas Emerald City and Issaquah have been blanked only once – by the Shine. The Rush are the only side that has been kept off the board more than Spokane, having gone scoreless in the last six games.  

The Shine are tied with Emerald City and Issaquah SC with four shutouts this season, but have posted one against each of the top clubs in the division and have allowed only one goal in the three previous matches against Issaquah and Emerald City. The other two have a pair of shutouts each against Oregon courtesy of having their matches against the struggling club in the latter half of the slate.

At the other end of the pitch though, the scales are definitely tipped to the western side of the Cascades. The final weekend of play will also be an individual race to see who finishes as the leading scorer in the division. With four goals against the Rush last week, Megan Chapin caught up to Issaquah’s Kennya Cordner, a Trinidad & Tobago international, in the scoring table with seven for the season. On Wednesday, her equalizer against Issaqauh put Chapin in front at eight.

With Oregon’s only remaining game in Spokane, it is unlikely the next group of players in the table will have a chance at finishing first. Issaquah’s Joana Houplin is third with five and Portland’s Elizabeth Boon and Nicole Strong have four with a final game against Eugene Sunday.

The Shine’s leading scorers have been sitting on two goals since the previous Rush game, and are unlikely to add to it. Alyshia Madison was recently deployed by the Navy and Rodriguez has seen limited playing time due to family commitments back home that have created commuting issues for training and games.

Leading Goal Scorers   
8 Chapin, Megan (Emerald City)
7 Cordner, Kennya (Issaquah)
5 Houplin, Joana (Issaquah)
4 Boon, Elizabeth (Portland)
4 Strong, Nicole (Portland)
3 Ayala, Jessica (Emerald City)
3 Anderson, Shawna (Issaquah)
3 Walter, Chrissy (Eugene Metro)

Shutouts... FOR -- Against
Issaquah SC... 4 -- 1
Emerald City FC... 4 -- 1
Spokane Shine... 4 -- 4
Portland Rain... 2 -- 2
Eugene Metro FC... 2 -- 3
Oregon Rush... 0 -- 6