Lane United FC hadn’t taken the field for meaningful USL League Two play in almost ten months, but Sunday, May 21st, happily saw the return of the Reds in their first league match of the season against Capital FC Atletico in Salem, OR.
CFC is the reigning Northwest Division champion, but the Reds came fired up and ready to play on Sunday. It was an exciting and exhilarating match, especially offensively for the Reds, and one that saw them come away with a 6-2 victory.
It was an unorthodox game with both teams scoring in bunches and the Reds nearly surrendering a three-goal lead, but a win is a win and the Reds are now 1-0 on the young season.
It took all of seven minutes for the Reds to get on the board in 2023. Off a turnover, Hugo Rodriguez made an impressive run from the midline nearly to the CFC penalty box before releasing Wade Muttitt on the left, and the Englishman punched it through with his left into the far netting all in one motion. Seven minutes down: 1-0 Reds.
Both teams settled in a bit, but Lane United appeared to take over the game in the 37th minute. Robin Terry set up the play by first winning a 50/50 ball and finding the speedy Muttitt on the right. Muttitt outran multiple CFC defenders and sent in a perfect, low cross for Rodriguez, who knocked it in at the far post. The Muttitt-Rodriguez duo had struck again, this time switching roles, to double the lead.
After the second goal, CFC appeared to be playing it safe on their next possession with simple passes, but a turnover, yet again, set up the Reds’ counterattack, which looked lethal on Sunday.
A LUFC cross from the left was batted down by the CFC keeper, Stuart Heringer, but the deflected ball ended up right in the lap of Muttitt, who was already having a day to remember. Muttitt wouldn’t waste the opportunity as he scored the point-blank shot to make it 3-0 Reds in the 38th minute.
At that point, LUFC were sitting comfortably. Their defense hadn’t been tested much, goalkeeper Brandon Limes had faced just three shots, all of which went right to his hands. Everything seemed smooth, but in the blink of an eye, Capital FC catapulted itself right back into the game.
In the 42nd minute, midfielder Fumiya Shiraishi inched the lead down to two with an impressive strike after moving to his right, perfectly placing his shot from the top of the box just inside the left post. The CFC goal noticeably rejuvenated their players, as well as their fans.
Five minutes of stoppage time were added before the break, and after Limes made a phenomenal reflex save off a shot from one corner, CFC would cash in on another. Limes punched the corner kick to the top of the box, but the ball ended up in mid-air for Osvaldo Santana, who smashed the ball over Limes’ outstretched arms with a left-footed volley.
After commanding much of the first half, the Reds had let their guard down a bit the last ten minutes and entered the locker room up just 3-2.
Capital FC Atletico made a switch at halftime, bringing on Francisco Magana. His night would be short-lived, however, as he was given a straight red card in the 51st minute for a violent challenge on LUFC center back Haruya Iwasaki.
The game entered somewhat of a stalemate for the next 25 minutes with neither team being able to add on despite numerous half-chances. The Reds weren’t able to do much with their numerical advantage until the 79th minute, when they were finally able to add some insurance.
Rodriguez once again found himself alone for a long run down the middle and his shot from the top of the area hit CFC defender Ryan Keefe in the arm inside the box. Rodriguez scored the ensuing penalty kick with ease to match Muttitt with two goals on the day.
CFC kept the pressure on LUFC the entire second half, sensing that they might be able to get themselves back into the game as they had in the first. But, as Sunday proved numerous times, the Reds like to score in bunches, and just three minutes later they found the back of the net yet again.
The goal was again set up by a turnover, an errant pass behind the CFC player and right to a coasting Banyan Lyon on the run. Lyon found fellow youngster Jalen Belong with space in the box and Belong cashed in to grow the lead to 5-2.
The Lyon-Belong connection could be a fun one off the bench for now and maybe for years to come. Lyon is just 19 years old while Belong is 20, but the two looked like they could’ve been playing together for years on Sunday.
In the 88th minute, Robin Terry released Lyon down the left flank with a beautiful ball over the top. Lyon, all alone, beautifully tracked down the pass, tiptoed his way along the backline, luring Heringer in the process, before finding Belong in the middle for a simple first-time finish. Belong became the third Red with a brace on the day as he grew the visitors’ lead to 6-2 just minutes from time.
With the victory, the Reds have a perfect start to the 2023 USL League Two season and will be back on the road next Friday, May 26th, against Ballard FC in Seattle, WA. Tickets can be purchased through their site at https://www.goballardfc.com/tickets/.