Sunday, May 17, 2015

First win over Shadow puts Vancouver back atop EPLWA

Vancouver improves record against Spokane to 1-1-1 with the win  |  Full Gallery [+] 
Having built a 3-0-0 record on teams struggling to get off to a good start, the Vancouver Victory took the long trip to Spokane Saturday for its biggest test of the season against the defending league champions. A bit of a chess match at times, the visitors found the winning moves for a goal in each half to leave town with a 2-0 victory and their place back atop the league table once again.

Karl Muelheims
In a light rain under overcast skies just hours after a strong storm had blown through, the Victory had the better of things in the very early stages of the match and got off two shots in the first seven minutes, sending a warning to the hosts. The first went just wide of the left post five minutes in and Borce Antanasov created the second when he got through the back line and had his effort from the top of the area deflected over the goal by keeper Jeff Srock.

The Shadow then began to assert themselves behind the combination of Zach Hamer, who returned to the lineup, and Karl Muelheims, but the first good chance came in the 11th minute hen a corner from the left side found defender Brady Ulen at the far outer portion of the box. He rose and headed the ball past the keeper only to see midfielder Ben Culpan nod it off the goal-line.

A minute later Muelheims was streaking to goal with a defender hanging on his shoulder, but couldn't quite break free and had to settle with being fouled.

In the 26th minute Vancouver had another excellent chance when a free kick just past midfield was played short out to the left side of the box where Timur Zhividze cut inside briefly before unleashing a shot near post that Srock saved.

Borce Antanasov (L) celebrates
Muelheims created another chance for the Shadow to potentially grab the lead in the 34th minute only to see his 25-yard effort sail just off the outside of the upper corner.

A minute later the visitors snared the advantage. A long ball into midfield resulted in a couple of semi-controlled headers that sent it up near the Shadow penalty area. Antanasov took control of it amidst a mix of players and was able launch a hard shot that deflected en route to goal, causing Srock to have to adjust to the path of the well-paced effort. he was only able to get a piece of it, and all anyone could do was watch as it looped behind him and rolled over the line for what stood as the winning goal.

"Vancouver is good. They are dynamic and dangerous - not the prettiest type of soccer; it's completely against philosophy and style of play, but its effective and it worked better for them than our style worked for us today. So hats off to them," said Shadow head coach Chad Brown after the match. "They came in and did their job and we weren't good enough on doing ours. With that said, its part of the process for us in improving."

Vancouver nearly doubled the lead just before the break when, in stoppage time, Ian Schimandle took the ball to the end-line and played a ball directly in to Zhividze at the edge of the six, where he cracked a shot near post that was stuffed by Srock, who made several excellent saves on the night, including one on a breakaway.

The second half was much of the same as both teams took turns controlling possession as they looked for the critical next goal. The half stared with Antanasov sending a sharp-angled shot from the right side four minutes in that slipped through everyone toward the far post and just wide of the mark.

Jordan Farr
At the hour mark, Muelheims had another good opportunity when the second chance on a corner came to him at the top of the box. He initially turned to the right to trick the defender before cutting back left and firing a shot that flew just high.

"Today, we were really impressed with our back line; really happy with our organization from our back, from our goalkeeper," said Vancouver head coach Aaron Lewis. "They stayed tight - they worked on that a lot this week. We've kind of mixed our back line up through the season to this point with personnel changes and things like that, but that group today did a fantastic job. It's a good start. This group is professional enough to know that they are off to a good start and they have to keep improving."

Both teams continued to press looking for the goal, and in the 78th minute it was the visitors who found it. Courtesy of local standout James Williamson (Coeur d'Alene, ID / Lake City HS), the victory doubled the advantage when the defender sent a throw-in from about 45 yards up the touchline from the right side into the box. It bounced a few times as players reach to get it, but found a path untouched all the way to the back post where Alex Nimo finished from about five yards out.

For Spokane head coach Chad Brown, it still comes down to the stage of the season. Last year, the Shadow lost the first two games at home before getting an easy win on the road and starting their unbeaten run to the title. This year started off with a big road win followed by two tightly-contest games at home that has them at 1-1-1.

Brady Ulen's header stopped at the goal line
"It's early on and we're in a better spot than we were last year at this time, so we got work to do," he said. "We'll continue to work hard and focus on guys getting better every day. We'll take the positives and negatives out of and sift through it, and move on.

"I think there's quite a bit of positives from tonight. I think that we defended fairly well at times in terms of philosophy and what we are trying to do with tactics. Its just making sure we are sharper in all aspects; but I think the majority guys fought for the entire game, even after going down two goals, which is a positive.

"It's just trying to find that character and build that character. Some teams are just gifted with it, some teams have to work hard at developing it. This group's got to work a little harder than last year's group in developing it. There's a lot of new guys, and the whole group still hasn't trained together yet, so there's plenty of positives to take out it because we haven't trained together. I don't think that that's necessarily an excuse, but its part of that dynamic of being successful - the camaraderie and chemistry of a group.

The match provided a few firsts. It was Vancouver's first shutout of the campaign, courtesy of goalkeeper Jordan Farr, and it was the team's first win against the Shadow, having played to a 1-1 draw in Spokane a 2-1 loss at home a year ago.

Scoring Summary

Vancouver Victory 2 :: 0 Spokane Shadow
VAN: Borce Antanasov 35
VAN: Alex Nimo (James Williamson) 78

SPO: Matt Beaulaurier (caution) 67

SPO: Starters - Jeff Srock, Ben Thompson, Brady Ulen, Nick Ulowetz, Matt Beaulaurier, Sam Joy, Zack Hamer, Dustin Ferger, Mario Zarate, Adam Talley, Karl Muelheims :: Subs - Juan Jaramillo, Halvor Mikkelsen, Anthony Mota, Clark Phillips, David Starkovich, Cory Shimensky, Tony Watters
VAN: Starters - Jordan Farr, BJ Romac, Alex Nimo, James Partee, Nathaniel Cheney, Timur Zhividze, Bel Culpan, Aaron Kinnes, Kyle Hammond, James Williamson, Borce Antanasov :: Subs - Ian Schimandle, Bobby Hutchin, Kemar Prince, Arne Niermann

###  EPLWA on INWsoccernews  ###