Published Jun 21, 2022
Written By:  Sam Palmer
             West Region Contributor


In a match that featured two of the most impassable defensive units in the Northwestern Conference, one could have been forgiven for not expecting the Westside Timbers and Spokane Shadow to deliver a hard-charging slugfest when they met on Sunday, June 19. Soccer often has a way of subverting our expectations, however, and so it was last weekend in Spokane. 

Westside Timbers set the tone very early when a free kick in its defensive third was launched up to the forwards. Some skillful hold-up play, weaving movement, and quick passing were all it took to drag the Spokane center backs out of position and slip Nicole LaTourette through on goal. LaTourette confidently slotted the ball home, past the onrushing Mercedes Cullen, and the Timbers went up 1-0 within the first five minutes.

The Shadow, however, did not wait long before giving its reply. A powerful driving run took Chloe Gellhaus from a throw-in near the halfway line, laterally across the field and all the way to the opposition’s 18-yard box. Gelhaus then looped a shot that was somewhere between a drive, a lob and a curler. Regardless of its genus, it snuck under the crossbar and put the match back on level terms. 


The rest of the half was characterized by endeavor on the part of both clubs, although neither was able to get the upper hand. Both teams attempted to keep the ball on the carpet and link passes together, but the energy of the play was such that these efforts were inconsistent, punctuated by detours into a different type of match - one of lunging tackles and full-tilt foot races. 


The best opportunity of the bunch came around the final 10 minutes of the half. Westside broke quickly down the middle, and some lucky bounces put the ball at the feet of Maggy Phillips, who blasted a shot to the upper right-hand corner. This forced a spectacular save from Cullen in the Spokane goal that caused her to dive to her left and get two strong hands up to push the ball wide. 


The Timbers flew out of the traps in the second half as well, refusing to allow Spokane a moment’s rest from their pressing. In the 47’ minute, deep in the Spokane half, Westside won the ball as the Shadow attempted to string passes across its back line. Nedya Sawan gained possession and completed Spokane’s punishment by lacing a shot into the far corner from a tight angle to give the Timbers a 2-1 advantage. 


Echoing the first half, the Shadow quickly responded in kind, when Livvy Moore, the ever-present goal-scoring threat from Deer Park High School, found the back of the net in the 61’ minute to equalize for the home side. 


As in the first half, Westside’s lead had disappeared almost as quickly as it came. For the first two-thirds of the match, the two clubs had mirrored each other. With half an hour to play, the question posed was simple - who could land a blow and not take one in return? 


The answer, it turned out, was Westside. Again, hard pressing from the Timbers’ midfield and attack increased the risk for Spokane as it attempted to build possession out of its own defensive third. In the 65’ minute, Taylor Krueger intercepted a Spokane pass and laid it off to Ava Benedetti, who blasted an unstoppable shot into the top left corner of the goal, giving the women of west Portland a 3-2 lead on the day. 


Despite Spokane’s dogged efforts in the dying moments of the match, the scoreline held. With a road win the day before to ISC Gunners, the Timbers ended the weekend with six points out of six available - not bad for a two-day soccer sojourn into Washington. The Timbers also stretched its league-best unbeaten run to six matches and crept within a point of the conference leaders, PacNW


Spokane has an 11-day break before its next match against conference leaders, PacNW on Thursday, June 30. The Shadow then travel two more away matches before closing out the regular season at home on Wednesday, July 13.