by Kyler Parris
REDMOND, WA- Washington Crossfire and Victoria Highlanders draw 2:2 at Redmond High on Saturday night July 6. Crossfire held on to the draw after a comeback by the division-leading Highlanders in an unexpectedly close match.
The opening 30 minutes were very slow. Slow passing across the back and long, off target balls characterized both teams playing style. Both teams lacked flow in their play, leading to an unattractive period of the match.
Later in the half Crossfire began to find their rhythm. In the 39th minute, a messy play by both sides opened up some room for Christian Roldan outside the box. He was tackled hard and won a questionable free kick. Washington defender Justin Schmidt curled the free kick around the wall and into the near post spectacularly to give Crossfire the 1-0 lead. This goal led to a more open, fluid, attacking match that continued until the final whistle.
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The second half began with balanced play. In the 59th minute, On the counterattack Crossfire found a hole in Victoria’s backline. A very impressive through-ball from Washington’s midfield was sent to the running Christian Roldan. Now running with the ball straight towards goal, Roldan forced Highlanders ‘keeper Elliot Mitrou to come out. Roldan skillfully rounded Mitrou and passed the ball into the back of the net with ease. Crossfire had played the role of underdog miraculously, now with a 2:0 advantage.
Victoria began to pick the play up. A Highlander forward found space, using his speed to round the backline. Now one on one with Washington ‘keeper Ian Clark, he sidestepped Clark and looked to be through on goal until Clark dove out wildly, taking both feet and no ball. Clark was already on a yellow from an earlier challenge outside the box, giving the ref only one choice–red card to the ‘keeper.
After the card is issued, Victoria players began to realize that the referee had given a free kick just out of the box, even though the foul was clearly committed inside the 18 (I have a photo to prove it). As much as they fought the ref, he wasn’t giving in. So as Clark’s replacement ‘keeper came on, the Highlanders defender Tyler Hughes shot near post, bouncing past the unprepared ‘keeper and poorly positioned wall. 2;1 Crossfire still in the lead.
Just 3 minutes later in the 78th minute, Victoria’s sustained pressure on hunkered down Crossfire was just too much. Washington’s defense had batted away many attacks, but a driven ball across the box by Sam Prette had found a hole. On the other end was Blair Sturrock (who looked far offside) to tap the ball in far post and to the back of the net. Although Victoria continued to press for the win, hard-work from Christian Roldan and others kept the score tied at 2:2.
The drama was not over. Just as fans began to leave the grandstand and players began walking to the locker rooms, a hot air balloon decided to land on the field. Makes you wonder–What if it drifted over just moments earlier? Let’s hope the ref would make the right call for the first time…
This result means Crossfire has an extremely slim chance at playoffs spot. For Victoria, they are still in first in the league, but have yet to officially secure a playoff spot.