(written for goalWA by Highline team personnel)
The Thunderbirds experienced their first league loss of the season on Monday, falling in a 2-1 decision to the Peninsula Pirates. (Standings)
In what was a very enthralling and entertaining match, Highline was nearly on the board again within 90 seconds for the second consecutive match. Brandon Madsen almost capitalized on a miscommunication between the Pirate goalkeeper Aaron Zavolokin and the Pirate center back. However, Zavolokin did well to make himself big and Madsen flashed his effort wide.
The T-‐Birds looked to be asking most of the questions in the first half and one could argue that the Peninsula goal actually came against the run of play. The Pirates have been lethal on set plays this year, and that is exactly where the goal came from. Peninsula gained a free kick on the right flank about thirty yards from goal and swung in a beautiful ball behind the center backs about seven yards out from goal. Highline goalkeeper Graysen Raffensperger did well to make the initial save but was unable to hold the close range shot. Micah Weller found himself good position to tuck in a neat finish and put the Pirates up 1-‐0 at the 16th min mark. Highline looked a bit unnerved by the goal and the Pirates began to come more into the game, looking to pressure the ‘Birds higher up the field. However, the first half ended with most of the play taking place in the center of the field.
The second half started much the same way the first had ended, with the play being more direct and taking place in the middle of the pitch. However, Highline would find a way to even the game up in the 53rd minute. The Pirates gave up a foul just outside the left corner of the penalty area, and Isidro Prado-‐Huerta placed himself over the set piece. Isidro, a Seattle Sounders FC Academy graduate, unleashed a powerful swerving drive on the Peninsula goal. Aaron tried to hold, but was unable to bring the ball in cleanly which allowed Freshman Alex Lewis to head home from close range to even up the match in the 53rd min.
Highline looked buoyed by the goal and began to put the Pirate back line under pressure. However, Peninsula were able to restore their lead a few minutes late by striking on the counter. The Pirates, gaining possession at midfield, played a clever through ball down the left flank. From about 30 yards they went on to drive diagonal cross towards the HCC penalty area. The cross eventually fell to the opportunistic Pirate Forward Eddie Benito who headed a looping effort goal-bound that just barely made it into the Highline goal over a recovering Garrett Brewer’s head.
The Thunderbirds looked undeterred by the goal however, and to their credit were immediately on the attack again. Despite a few efforts going very close in the dying minutes, the Pirate defense and Zavolokin were able to hold strong and take all three points home. The match was touted as the match of the season for the NWAC and it didn’t disappoint. Although the Pirates now look in control of the Western Division, one wouldn’t bet against these two immensely talented teams meeting up again at the NWAC Championship.
The T-Birds will now have a substantial rest before they look to bounce back against a tough Tacoma Titan team on October 8th. The match is scheduled for 3pm at Starfire Sports Complex.