Lane United’s unfortunate start to the 2021 USL League Two season continued on Sunday, June 13th, 2021, as the Reds conceded an 89th-minute winner to hosts PDX FC.
Daniel Saez towered over a mix of defenders to head in a goal after a game featuring great chances from both sides nearly ended in a nil-nil draw.
A foul call with minimal, if any, contact on Kento Takamura set up the late free kick along the left side of Lane United’s defense. PDX FC’s Johnny Rodas whipped in the set piece and found the head of Saez, who broke the deadlock just one minute from time.
Despite the scoreline, this was Lane United’s best performance of the season. The Reds and standout goalkeeper Albert Escuin held firm for nearly the entire match, but it wasn’t enough to stop the six-foot-six Saez.
Escuin, who had eight stops on the day and was unquestionably LUFC’s Man of the Match, saved a penalty from Alcides "Paco" Thomas in the 60th minute before fully stretching to save a Kalif Alhassan screamer in the 84th.
The only thing more insane than Escuin’s performance is his penalty record: In five career penalties faced in USL League Two, he has now saved all five.
“It’s always a lottery,” said Escuin of his incredible penalty-saving acumen. “You never know what’s gonna happen, but I try to wait and I study guys. [Thomas] chipped it last game, so I thought it was gonna be around the middle—thankfully it went that way.”
Escuin knew Thomas had pulled off a match-winning 'Panenka' in the 85th minute of PDX FC’s last game against OVF Alliance. This time, Albert made the save down to his left.
Despite the heroic performance of Escuin, both teams had plenty of chances to win. For the home club, most of these came in the first half.
Alhassan, the former Portland Timber, missed a wide open header at the half-hour mark, while Nick Scardina and Thomas also missed open shots at goal before the half.
For Lane United, a formation change saw the game open up considerably and they probably created the most chances from through balls of any match this season. Henry Cromack, José Carlos González, and substitute Kento Takamura all had opportunities to score, but the Reds simply couldn’t find the back of the net.
After switching things up for the second half against Portland Timbers U23, head coach Jason Carney stuck with the new formation for Sunday’s match.
“It’s definitely more solid,” Carney remarked after the game. “I’m always ready to adapt to anything, whatever’s best for the team. I was pleased with the guys at the back.”
Cromack, usually a midfielder, got his first start up top before switching positions with Kingsley Armah at halftime.
“I think we found new things that work,” remarked midfielder Edoardo Merci. “It was great defensive work from all the guys and it’s a team effort.”
Lane United now find themselves without a point from their first four games despite scoring five goals on the opening weekend and nurturing a host of injuries. The Reds will host OVF Alliance at Civic Park on Friday, June 18th, 2021 at 7pm.