Bellingham United F.C. defeated Spokane Shadow in a 2-1 result at Civic Stadium on Sunday, July 17; maintaining its hold on second place in the Evergreen Premier League of Washington.
Spokane is the two-time defending Evergreen Premier League champions. The loss was their first on the road since they joined the league in 2014, breaking a streak of 18 matches without an away game defeat.
Spokane looked to avenge a 4-1 defeat it suffered the last time the two teams faced off.
The match was marked by physical play. Bellingham lost a player to injury early on when forward Kyle Witzel collided with Spokane’s goalkeeper while chasing down a long pass.
Witzel, who is Bellingham’s leading scorer, would not return to the game.
The majority of the first half saw plenty of back and forth action in the midfield but very little execution offensively. Both goalkeepers were able to make routine saves.
First-year Bellingham United goalkeeper, Tyler Visten, pointed out the strong play from Spokane, a team that was coming off of a 1-0 win over the Seattle Stars.
“We couldn’t get it through their midfield, they were pretty compact…We just kept grinding the whole game,” Visten said. “It wasn’t our best performance and losing Kyle was a big blow to us.”
A close call for Bellingham United happened at the 42 minute mark when a Spokane forward worked his way within eight yards of the goal but pushed his shot wide.
The match was poised to go into the half tied at zero until Bellingham won a late corner kick.
The corner kick bounced around in the box until Bellingham United midfielder Brendan Quillici settled the ball 18 yards from the goal, freed himself of a defender with a touch to his left foot and sent a curling shot into the left side of the net.
“We couldn’t get it through their midfield, they were pretty compact…We just kept grinding the whole game. It wasn’t our best performance and losing Kyle was a big blow to us.”
The late first half goal gave Bellingham United a 1-0 lead going into the second-half.
Scoring off of crosses has been Bellingham United’s forte all year, forward Richard Henderson said.
“We got fouled a lot in the first half so we couldn’t get crosses in but after a couple of their players were on some yellows, it allowed us to get a little more open,” Henderson said.
In the 81 minute, Bellingham United switched the field and placed a pass to forward Thiago Novis, who maneuvered his way down the left wing. Novis stopped, performed a step-over move and fired a crossing pass over the six-yard line.
Henderson was waiting to score a leaping header, giving Bellingham United a 2-0 lead and crediting Novis with an assist.
“The guys make fun of me that I don’t jump very often so I made sure I at least got up there,” Henderson said. “I was lucky enough that it went in the net.”
With their undefeated away game streak in peril, Spokane’s attack began a late push that culminated in an 87 minute goal.
A Spokane player was able to get his body in front of a Bellingham defender’s clearance attempt and score from ten yards out.
With a renewed energy, Spokane was able to keep the ball on the attacking half of the field but was unable to score a game-tying second goal before the final whistle.
With the win, Bellingham has relegated Spokane to third place in the league standings and improved to a record of 7-3-1.
Bellingham United assistant coach Arbad Benyi took over coaching duties as head coach Lance Calloway is renewing his U.S. Soccer Federation coaching license.
Benyi said it was a hard fought game but felt that his team deserved the win.
“We had those few chances and we put them away,” Benyi said. “That’s exactly what we ask from the guys. We’re happy with the rate of the execution.”
First-place Vancouver Victory F.C. extended its undefeated season later in the night with a 3-0 win over Olympic Force to improve to 9-0-2.
As the league stands, Vancouver needs just three league points to clinch the 2016 EPLWA title.
Bellingham United will need to win each of their remaining three games to give themselves a chance of overtaking Vancouver. The team goes on the road to play Yakima United F.C. and South Sound F.C. before finishing the season at Civic Stadium on July 31 against Seattle Stars F.C.