Monday, June 1, 2015

Defensive players lead Spokane to 2-0 win over Yakima

An early save from Jeff Srock was one of several great stops on the night - Full Gallery [+] 
Longtime foes Yakima and Spokane took to the pitch Saturday night in their first meeting of the season and once again did not disappoint in a thoroughly entertaining contest that saw many near misses, an outstanding goalkeeping performance from the Shadow's Jeff Srock and a late first half goal seconds before the whistle that gave the hosts command en route to a 2-0 victory at Spokane Falls CC Stadium.

Brady Ulen (R)
Deep into the two minutes of first half stoppage time, the Shadow snared the lead in a back-and-forth affair with the Hoppers when they were awarded a free kick about 35 yards from goal. Midfielder Dustin Ferger delivered a low looping ball just over the wall that bounced in the center of the box in a wide open area of real estate. Zach Hamer dashed in from the left and beat goalkeeper Jacob Rhoads to it, sending his shot deflecting off the near left post.

The rebound was banged into the open net by Brady Ulen, a defender who made a name for himself last fall at North Idaho College on set pieces. He was named to the INWsn's Best XI four times during the college season and once received the site's Player of the Week honor as he led the Cardinal defense and provided five goals and an assist on those weeks alone.

Though the first strike would not come until moments before the whistle for intermission, the game could have taken a drastically different turn had the Shadow scored in the first 30 seconds. Midfielder Zach Hamer nearly did just that when he fired a shot from inside the area that slipped over the crossbar by inches.

Frustrating night for Valdovinos
The Shadow continued to create a lot of activity in front of the Yakima goal in the early going. Six minutes in a throw from the right side got to Anthony Mota at the near post. He quick shot was deflected out. A minute later Graison Le took a shot from 14 yards that squirted through the goalkeeper's hands, but the roll took the ball just inches outside the post.

Yakima began to find some momentum in the ninth minute and created chances though the middle of the period. Hector Valdovinos produced many anxious moments for the fans. Valdovinos had his first look just before the 10-minute mark when a bouncing ball came to him inside the six. He reached out and got his boot to it, but Srock made a fantastic reaction save to deny the star striker.

"He's unbelievable. Man of the match, hands down - no questions about it. He's been fantastic," Shadow coach Chad Brown said of Srock after the match. "He's his own worst critic, and I hope that he's feeling pretty proud of himself tonight because he absolutely kept us in that game and was super calm about it at halftime."

"He was cool and calm and did his job, and that's all that I have asked any of the guys to do. Just do your job, and we'll be fine. If everybody does their job, then we are a good enough group to get through games and be successful for sure."

Ceveriano Garcia
Ceveriano Garcia had the next opportunity for the Hoppers in the 21st, finding some space in the box and shooting from about 13 yards only to see Srock make another good stop at the near post.

In the 25th minute, it looked certain Yakima would take the lead. A ball sent forward created a breakaway for Valdovinos, who turned quickly at the midfield stripe and sprinted up left side of the pitch with a Shadow defender too far to his side to make the defensive recovery, leaving Srock all alone to deal with the situation. The keeper, though, came out of the box and as Valdovinos reached the edge of the area, he pounced and stuffed the ball to break up the opportunity.

"Those are the saves I love making. Those are the saves why I play goalkeeper," said Srock. "I'm glad I was able to do what I needed to do; do my job for the team. I think a lot of people stepped up tonight. It was good to get the three points - we needed em. It was the first shutout of the year too, so it feels good. Anything I can do to help the team; come through for each other."

A minute later Yakima created another scare when Alexio Garcia served a ball in from the right side that William Pineda flicked just a few yards away from the near post that flew narrowly wide.

Having taken Yakima's best shot, Spokane began applying the attacking pressure once again and in the final 10 minutes of the half began showing signs of taking the lead again. In the 35th Le let loose a low line drive from the top of the box that was unable to scoot under the diving Rhoads. Two minutes later Karl Muelheims created a chance inside the box that just missed.

Then, just before the half, Ferger's perfect chip created the go-ahead goal.

"We got a late goal in the first half, which was huge," Brown said. "They were putting us under quite a bit of pressure and causing us some problems late in the first half so it was good to get it. It was a great set piece goal, and good to get that goal going into halftime. Made some adjustments and talked about some things during the break, and I think the guys did a pretty good job in the second half doing things we talked about, closing it out."

Zach Hamer (R)
The second half saw Spokane take more control of the ball with the lead, slowly working to add some insurance while making sure the Hoppers were extremely limited in their looks.

In the 68th minute, a lovely diagonal service from about 45 yards out on the right side by Kazuki Tateishi found the head of Hamer at the edge of the six in front of the far post. With the left side of goal open, the midfielder calmly nodded it into the back of the net, easing the tensions throughout the stadium.

"The guys did well - took advantage of, I think, some tired legs in the second half from Yakima and came out and progressed and made progress on what we talked about at halftime," said Brown.

Tateishi, though, was not done. In the 75th minute he was the hero at the other end as well when a corner into the far side of the area was headed toward goal by Jesse Esquivel, who netted a hat-trick the week before. In the one instance that Srock was not in position to make the stop, the midfielder was, stopping the ball at the goal line and clearing it away.

Then a minute later, midfielder Jesse Retan nearly pushed the lead to three with a lengthy free kick from about 43 yards that nearly surprised everyone, especially Rhoads. His effort caught the keeper cheating just a bit too much forward in anticipation for a flick-on play, forcing Rhoads to back-pedal and make a backward leaning leap to reach and tip the certain goal up over the bar.

"I think tonight was a good turning point for us," Srock said of the match. "Last year around this time was the same situation; just needed one game to build up the confidence moving forward. I think tonight was a good indication of where we are heading as a team and nothing but up from here in my opinion."

The victory put Spokane at 2-1-1 on the season and in a tie for fifth in the league, though the Shadow have a few games in hand on most of the league. They next take to the road for their first two-game trip. A Saturday afternoon tilt against South Sound Saturday in which they face a Shock side they narrowly edged out for the league title a year ago is followed up by their first meeting with the Olympic Force.

"This is part of the process. My vision of a starting 11 has not trained together once. Going through that process is hard, and I don't even think that what started tonight was what my vision of 11 is," Brown said of the team's progression. "I think we are close, but that changes potentially next week because of the struggles we have with guys having to work to get through school and make money, so we have a handful of guys that started tonight and played a handful of minutes that won't be going on the trip next weekend potentially, including Srock. That's a blow, but we have young guys that are there, and can do the job that I am confident in. But, its hard to replace someone with his experience."

"That's part of the struggle, and we dealt with it early on last year. We'll just keep doing what we are doing and plugging away, trying to do the best that we can of doing us and following our tactics and philosophy. I think the guys - it's another good group and they are bought in, so I think we can do that. It's just there is not going to be a lot of consistency with the lineup."

Yakima, meanwhile, remains third courtesy of the Hoppers' win Friday evening against Olympic, who they will face this coming Saturday evening to close out the season series.

"Credit to their goalie. We had a few chances to get the first goal and we couldn't put them away. Maybe if we finish one of those its a different game," said Yakima manager and assistant coach Joshua Vega. "But, sometimes that's how it goes. We feel we played well enough to get something out of that game and to come away with nothing hurts."

"But as I said, all credit to Spokane, they're a great team. They took their chances and won the game. We'll keep working and go to Bremerton this weekend looking to get three points."

Scoring Summary

Yakima United 0 :: 2 Spokane Shadow
SPO: Brady Ulen 45+
SPO: Zach Hamer (Kazuki Tateishi) 68

YAK: William Pineda (caution) 42, Dennis Stevensen 90+
SPO: Nick Ulowetz (caution) 89

YAK: Starters - Jacob Rhoads, Dennis Stevenson, Daniel Hernandez, Jordan Jones, William Pineda, Andres Ruiz, Alexio Garcia, Ramon Ayala, Ceveriano Garcia, Jesse Esquivel, Hector Valdovinos :: Subs - Adolfo Mora, Jivanni Arellano, Armando Escobedo, Rafael Valle, Alex Castro, Noe Meza, Antonio Gonzalez
SPO: Starters - Jeff Srock, Brady Ulen, Spencer Wolfe, Zach Hudson, Matt Beaulaurier, Halvor Mikkelsen, Anothony Mota, Karl Muelheims, Zach Hamer, Graison Le, Dustin Ferger :: Subs - Nick Ulowetz, Sam Joy, Kazuki Tateishi, Jesse Retan, Chance Bukoski, Trevan Estrellado, Tony Watters

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