The Oly Town Artesians FC finally got their first win of the season on Saturday, November 4, as they outlasted a late comeback scare from Bremerton’s Olympic Peninsula Force (or Oly-Pen), 9-8, in a game that marks the return of men’s arena soccer to Olympia after eight months off and which could be an early contender for match of the season.
Oly Town, despite losing the season opener last week against last season’s defending champs Tacoma Stars Reserves at the Stars’ home field, was welcomed back by a loud Evergreen State Pavilion packed with raucous supporters, who had last seen their Artesians play arena soccer in February of last year.
And what a delightful opening match it was for the Olympia faithful to witness live as nine different Artesians scored nine goals, just enough to beat Oly-Pen, who have improved since finishing at the bottom of the league last season.
“It shows the different skillsets that we have in our player pool and it’s always good to share the goals.” said Coach Nick Boatright.
It was a commanding start for Oly Town, who, emboldened by the momentum of the home town support, held the ball in midfield while counter-attacks from the visitors were quickly stifled by starting goalkeeper Isaiah Damschen before Oly Pen’s Francisco Barajas exploited a misplaced pass from Brice Holiday, which opened the scoring 1-0 for the visitors at almost four minutes in the opening salvo.
But that was the final lead for the Bremerton-based side for the whole match, as the Artesians remained composed on the ball despite giving up an unnecessary early goal.
Two quick goals in less than two minutes is what it took for Oly Town to regain the lead as captain Nate Boatright equalized from a direct free kick at around seven minutes of the game clock, and just a few seconds after, a seemingly tame shot from Alex Lopez in his own half was parried by the opposite goalkeeper into his net to make it 2-1 until the opening quarter ended.
The Artesians continued their offensive momentum as they added their third of the match after a play in transition was concluded with a lovely backheel pass from Lopez to a sprinting Brice Holiday to make it 3-1 just two minutes in the second quarter. Ismael De Luna of Oly-Pen tried to make it close to 3-2 after a tap-in before Kasey Sidor and Collin Tate found the back of the net after taking advantage of set pieces late in the quarter to make it 5-2 Artesians lead at half time.
In what could have been a comfortable lead for Oly Town at the half, Oly-Pen kept the door knocking early at the second half as they tried to creep up and cut the lead, as Gil Navarro scored early for the visitors from a deflected shot, before a Johnny Cano tap-in exploited a scramble from the opposite box to restore the three-goal advantage just two minutes in the third quarter, 6-3.
The exchange of punches continued for both teams in a hotly contested third quarter, as Safwan Ismail hits the back of the net from a direct free kick to make it 7-3, before Oly-Pen responded with an Alejandro Hernandez low shot to restore the three-goal cushion. Alex Vidal makes it 8-4 after punishing a goalkeeping mistake late in the third quarter, but somehow, the visitors were just responding enough to keep their hopes alive as a six-goal slugfest of a third-quarter ended at 8-5 to round out the finale in style.
And what style it was for Oly-Pen as Isaiah de Luna opened the scoring early in the final quarter, before a Gavin Mcleroy tap-in sealed the ninth goal for Oly Town in the seventh minute of the fourth quarter.
With a three-goal lead at eight minutes remaining, all Oly Town needed to do was to hold back and contain the lead, but as we have learned in covering arena soccer, no lead is safe.
A blue card for Alex Lopez forced a temporary ejection and powerplay for Oly-Pen, which they took full advantage of as Alejandro Hernandez scored his second for the visitors, 9-7, and another hit from hat trick hero DeLuna trimmed the Oly Town lead to just one goal with five minutes left.
That final five minutes could have been the longest five minutes for the Artesians so far this season as they parked the bus to waste time on their defensive half, and Isaiah Damschen, despite conceding eight goals, made himself big with vital reflex saves as the visitors tried to find the equalizer, only to be frustrated by a gallant stand from the home side.
Fortunately for Oly Town, they held their defense to the sword up until the final whistle, which included a fantastic goal-line clearance from captain Nate Boatright in the dying seconds – to the collective sighs of relief from the rapt fans and the coaching staff – for them to collect their first three points of this men’s arena soccer season.
“They (Oly-Pen) didn’t stop coming. We just had to sit and play good defense, and thanks to our guys who cleaned it off the line to secure the win”, said goalkeeper Isaiah Damschen in a postmatch interview praising the Oly Town backline for their late-game heroics.
With the win, the Artesians move up to the middle of the WISL standings while still maintaining a negative goal differential, which is the second league tiebreaker, and look to crawl up to the top of the WISL table as the competition continues.
Oly Town has a bye week in WISL play and is set to continue on Saturday, November 18, at home against league newcomers Snohomish Sky. Sky beat the Steelheads 9-1 in their WISL opener Saturday. Kickoff will be at 6 p.m.
“I think the bye week will help us build and assess now that we have multiple games under our belt” said Coach Nick about the one-week break from WISL competition. “There are definitely opportunities to get better and we want to take full advantage of the two weeks leading in to the game on Nov 18th.”
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