South Sound retakes first place; EPLWA race goes to final day of season

BELLINGHAM, WA— South Sound FC beat Bellingham United 2-1 on Friday night at Civic Stadium to retake first place in the Evergreen Premier League and ensure that the champion won’t be crowned until the final day of the season on Sunday. The match drew 838 fans, the largest crowd of the season in the EPLWA.

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EVERGREEN PREMIER LEAGUE Pts GP W L T GF GA GD
SOUTH SOUND FC 28 13 9 3 1 22 12 +10
SPOKANE SHADOW 26 12 8 2 2 22 11 +11
VANCOUVER VICTORY FC 25 13 8 4 1 31 23 +8
BELLINGHAM UNITED 20 14 6 6 2 32 29 +3
YAKIMA UNITED FC 16 14 5 8 1 32 37 -5
WENATCHEE UNITED FC 15 13 5 8 0 27 31 -4
SEATTLE STARS FC 14 13 4 7 2 24 27 -3
WESTSOUND FC 10 14 3 10 1 15 35 -20

With their win the Shock pull back in front of Spokane 28 points to 26. The Shadow can jump back into first place on Saturday night when they host Seattle Stars FC at 7 PM at Spokane Falls Community College. A tie or a loss by Spokane in that match would mean South Sound would head into Sunday with the race back in their own hands.

On Sunday the league title will be decided when South Sound plays at Vancouver (2 PM) and Spokane hosts Wenatchee United (5 PM.)

Spokane wins the EPLWA title if: the Shadow win their matches on Saturday and Sunday, or they win one of them and South Sound loses at Vancouver.

South Sound wins if: the Shock beat Vancouver on Sunday and the Shadow lose or draw on Saturday or Sunday.

Vancouver wins if: Spokane loses or draws both of their matches and the Victory beat South Sound by at least two goals. A Spokane Victory on Saturday would eliminate Vancouver ahead of Sunday’s matches.

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Bellingham 1-2 South Sound

Micah Wenzel (penalty kick) and Vincent McCluskey scored first-half goals as South Sound hung on to get a huge win over the Hammers on Friday night. Tyler Bjork scored his 13th goal of the season to lead the goalKING race but the second-half tally wasn’t enough for the Hammers. South Sound goalkeeper JJ Olson was red-carded in the second half. The Shock played with ten men and field player Max Harvey in goal the rest of the way (20 minutes.)

The Hammers finished their first season in the EPLWA at 6-6-2 on 20 points. The crowd lifted the BUFC season attendance average for home matches to 545.

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Here’s how Hammers Insider Brandon Enyeart saw the match:

It was known at the beginning of the season that 2014 would be an uphill battle for Bellingham United FC. They were going to be without Kellan Brown and Oscar Jimenez for the majority of the season and a few weeks in they would also find themselves without Sean Connor, Leo Cohen and Andrew Weishaar. Despite being in many ways a rebuilding team, the Hammers did manage to win some spectacular games, as well as hang in tight with some of the EPLWA’s best. Friday evening they finished their season in Bellingham hoping to play spoilers against South Sound FC.

Bellingham United FC (6-5-2) came into the match with nothing to lose and nothing to gain. Their 4th place spot on the EPLWA table was fixed and they wouldn’t be budging regardless of the outcome. South Sound FC (8-3-1) however came in with a much different attitude. Along with Vancouver Victory FC and Spokane Shadow FC, the “Shock” were one of three teams still in the race for the league title.

The match opened up with Bellingham looking loose and ready to attack. Although they managed to find their way into enemy territory multiple times in the opening moments of the match, they were unable to find the back of the net. South Sound FC used Bellingham’s strong attack against them and were able to launch a few counter attacks, but just like Bellingham, they couldn’t find the juice they needed in the final third.

Finally in the 34th minute, the deadlock would be broken with a controversial call against Bellingham United FC which resulted in a penalty for South Sound FC. South Sound’s Micah Wenzel was called upon to take the penalty and he converted it for the 1-0 SSFC lead.

After a series of offside calls against the Hammers, the crowd started to grow uneasy, as the three referees quickly became the targets of the majority of the 800+ crowd. Not only did the crowd feel that the referees were against them, but it was starting to seem like Mother Nature was as well, as a series of extraordinarily strong gusts of wind came shooting through the Civic Stadium against the Hammers’ offensive push.

The wind would end up benefitting South Sound FC in the 43rd minute, when Bellingham keeper, Brian Swanson was caught off guard with a chip from South Sound forward, Vincent McCluskey that floated over Swanson with a little help from the blustery conditions. The goal would give South Sound FC a 2-0 lead heading into the half.

Mo Marenah would be subbed in at the start of the half for Bellingham and he would immediately get in on the action making several runs down the right hand side of the pitch. Only five minutes in, Marenah found himself in a perfect position to crack a shot at SSFC keeper, JJ Olson, but Olson was up to the task and directed it behind the net.

Tyler Bjork and Mo Marenah would continue to link up through the early stages of the second half, but without any luck. It wasn’t until the 69th minute when Bellingham would finally get on the scoreboard after substitute, Robbie Tice found Tyler Bjork for his 13th goal of the season. The celebration would be cut short though when a misunderstanding on the field resulted in a Red Card to South Sound keeper, JJ Olson after an alleged punch to the face of Conlon Kifney. Kifney would also receive a yellow for some extracurricular activity after the incident, but it would be South Sound FC battling for over 20 minutes a man down.

Although the goal and everything that came with it did spark the Hammers, they were unable to get another goal past a South Sound FC squad who became very content with bunkering in and defending. The final match of the season for Bellingham United FC would end in a 2-1 loss to the Shock.

Before the match started awards were given out by the Bellingham United FC organization to outstanding players of the year. Tyler Bjork received both team MVP and Offensive Player of the Year awards, and Uche Ugwoaba received Defensive Player of the Year honors. The “Black and White Army” also presented their award for “Hammer of the Year” to none other than Tyler Bjork.

The loss ended Bellingham’s season with a 6-6-2 record, while the win for South Sound FC put them back at the top of the league with a 9-3-1 record and gave them the opportunity to play for the title on Sunday.

Thank you to everyone who supported Bellingham United FC this season. The 800+ crowd on Friday gave the match an amazing atmosphere and we hope to see much more of that in 2015. See you then.  —Brandon Enyeart

 

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