Monday, July 9, 2012

Spokane Shine edge Portland Rain on the road; playoff chase down to final week

With a short-handed roster and a tough road trip after a hard-fought victory Friday, it was not an easy task. But once again the Spokane Shine went on the road and picked up a 1-0 victory over an opponent that got a better result previously at Joe Albi Stadium as they topped the Portland Rain 1-0 Sunday on a goal from Darci Smith.

A must-win scenario for both sides, the Shine kept their postseason hopes alive and knocked Portland out of the race for the division title, leaving only the three Washington-based clubs to duke it out in the final week of the season.

In a hot afternoon contest that was the first game of a doubleheader featuring the Rain’s brother Portland Timbers U-23 side from the Premier Development League, the Shine grabbed the initial lead at Hare Field and held on for dear life, as they have done for several weeks now.

Darci Smith (L) scored the deciding goal
Seventeen minutes into the contest former Scottish youth international Lisa Robertson delivered a corner kick into the six that Smith rose to nod past the keeper for her first of the season. 

From there it was nearly all Rain as the hosts put pressure on the Shine defense and tested Stephanie Busch time after time.

Portland midfielder Linsay Bauman had a nearly equalized a minute before the break, beating a Shine defender as she drove toward goal, sending a shot just wide of the right upright. 

Nine minutes into the second half captain Nicole Strong redirected a Bauman throw-in to midfielder Natalie Meigss, who fired dangerously at the goal, forcing Busch into making a fantastic save to send it just wide.

With seven minutes remaining the Rain nearly got things started yet again as defender Bianca Brambila delivered a fantastic ball that Zoe Higgins headed just off the mark.

Around the Division - The Playoff Picture

With the Oregon Rush losing 8-0 versus Issaquah Friday and 10-0 to Emerald City Saturday during their Seattle road swing, the Shine must still win both of its final games and get some help in the form of Issaquah dropping three points.  Leading the division by three points, Issaquah need s to win one of its two games this week against their local rival Emerald City, who has a busy week ahead of them in which they face both of the other contenders. ECFC, though, has room for error. They need, at the very least, a draw in Spokane along with four points (draw and win) against Issaquah, a scenario that would give them the title on the head-to-head tiebreaker.  

Remaining Matches with Playoff Implications

Wednesday – Issaquah @ Emerald City
Friday – Emerald City @ Spokane Shine
Saturday – Oregon Rush @ Spokane Shine
Saturday – Emerald City @ Issaquah

Bragging Rights in Oregon

Though they are all out of the playoff hunt, bragging rights as the top team in the Oregon are still at stake between the Portland Rain and Eugene Metro FC. With what will be an expected win Wednesday versus the Rush, the Azul will go into Sunday’s division finale with a chance to tie the Rain on points and, with a two-goal or more victory, win the head-to-head showdown (and league tiebreaker) between the two, having previously lost at home to Portland, 2-1.