The Lane United FC Women’s Team wrapped up their first-ever USL W League home campaign at Civic Park with a resounding 3-0 victory over Capital FC Atletica.
In the 51st minute, Capital FC Atletica’s Vicky Cruz, a former Mexican Youth National Team talent, found herself streaking towards the Lane United goal with keeper Olivia Riddel staring her down. Out of nowhere, a Reds’ defender came flying in from the weak side to get a foot on Cruz’s touch, leaving an easy dribbler for Riddel to pick up. Within seconds, the ball was on the other side of the field with Sela Freeman finding Lily Nowatzke, who scored to grow the lead to 3-0.
It was just that kind of day for the Reds, a complete performance that head coach Jurgen Ruckaberle has been wanting for weeks. Well, he got it, and he got it in the Reds’ final home game of the season in what was easily their best performance of the year in a rain-filled afternoon.
The first 20 minutes of the half saw an even stalemate, with possession for both teams staying within the middle 30 yards of the field. It wasn’t until the 21st minute that the Reds broke through, taking advantage of a costly CFC mistake.
With Sarah Rice, a defender for CFC, dribbling the ball out of the penalty area on a v-line to the sideline, Briana Kubil picked her pocket. Standing in the middle of the field just outside the box, Kubli booted the ball in one motion, perfectly tucking the ball in the upper left corner.
Throughout the first half, LUFC forwards Kubli, Lilly Nowatzke, and Sophie Cleland were all individually aggressive in their own regards, but were unable to find the final pass. Nowatzke tirelessly chased after passes and extended multiple possessions for the Reds, but the desired second goal proved tough sledding.
While the offense looked to fine tune their approach, the defense was phenomenal again for the home side. Going into this match, the Reds had allowed just one goal in their last three matches. They continued their potent defensive form, limiting CFC to just one corner and one shot on goal in the first half, both of which were gobbled up by Riddel.
LUFC’s pressure – which had resulted in the lone unassisted goal – over the majority of the first half played a large role in the Reds’ second goal.
With CFC keeper Catriona Burns pinned against her backline and out of the goal after pressure from Nowatzke, Burns’ touch to a nearby teammate was picked off by Nowatzke. Nowatzke immediately looked towards the middle of the field and chipped a perfect pass to Cleland, who first-timed a shot into the vacated goal.
Cleland’s second goal in as many matches with the team in the 43rd minute was big insurance for the Reds, who now led 2-0 heading into halftime.
Nowatzke’s immediate goal in the second half, from Freeman’s assist, appeared to be an early knockout punch for CFC. As soon as the ball hit the net, all six of their substitutes began intensifying their stretching on the sidelines and just minutes later, five of them were in.
With each CFC attack, they seemed pressured to score and get back into the game. This appeared to weigh on players, who began to show visible frustration with both themselves and each other.
Each heartfelt attack was immediately stuffed, however. LUFC did a great job all game of swarming the ball and making it uncomfortable on CFC. They were also very active, yet smart, with their tackle attempts. Each denial was emphatically recognized with cheers by the Red Aces in the south end.
The Reds’ brought on their own substitutions in the 70th minute and seemed content to sit back and see out the victory. While this may have skewed the offensive and possession statistics more in CFC’s favor as the Reds absorbed a bit more pressure, they were well organized and never broke.
Coach Ruckaberle was able to get all 18 of his active players in the game, and the subs seized their moment to secure the clean sheet.
Each woman that touched the field on Sunday played through the final whistle. Riddel’s constant communication and support from the box were impactful for the Reds all game, but especially helpful for the substitutes. A fourth goal was in the works as the team’s starters became the Reds’ biggest supporters on the bench, but LUFC would have to settle for just three.
The final whistle was met with bittersweet celebrations and energy from the players and fans. While a 3-0 performance is clearly their best to this day, fans will miss supporting these ladies that have made some monumental and entertaining strides in their first-ever season.
With the win and three points, the Reds’ have catapulted themselves into third place in the standings with three games to go. They’ll take on PDX FC in Portland next on Wednesday, June 21st, as they strive for their third straight win.