Qualifying Round 2: International Portland Select FC vs. Nevada Coyotes FC

 Photo Credit: Ben McFarland of Cleveland HS

Photo Credit: Ben McFarland of Cleveland HS

The visiting Nevada Coyotes of the UPSL Wild West North came into Portland for Sunday’s USOC second round qualifying match in very good form, having outscored their conference opponents in four consecutive wins, 14-2; the only “loss” coming as a forfeiture due to pitch conditions. The very experienced Nevada head coach, Christian Patiño, seemed to have his boys-in-blue organized and ready when the whistle blew to kick off the match at Rob Strasser Memorial Field in Delta Park.

Head coach of the home side, International Portland Select FC, Harvey Hurst, was obviously not allowing his opponent’s semi-professional status change the approach for the kids from Portland. Decked out in Arsenal kits, they were jogging and stretching as a unit before the match and the keeper was flying left-to-right and back in the box, doing warm-up drills. They all seemed up to the task of hosting a side from a much larger league.

IPSFC started pushing early, earning a corner within two minutes of the match, and by the ten-minute mark, they were primarily controlling the pace of the match and hadn’t allowed the visitors any penetrating attacks. Nearly a quarter of an hour in, Nevada got its first real scoring opportunity with a set piece from the left-hand side. Bernardo Palma-Sosa made a great save and the match was still waiting for its first goal – we wouldn’t have to wait much longer.  

In the 17th minute, Nate Pogue received the ball about 40 yards out, ran a half circle, lost possession for moment, regained possession, was put through by teammate Paco Thomas and punished the Coyotes by breaking into the area and rocketing the ball off the underside of the crossbar, giving IPSFC the early lead. After the reset, Nevada calmly played the ball out of the back, avoided a little pressure and sent a long ball into IPSFC’s area; within seconds, Pogue received the ball near the same area he had caused trouble just moments before, side-stepped a defender and scampered into the box, beating the keeper nearside with a low shot giving the home side an improbable 2-0 lead.

This was clearly not the start Nevada had hoped for and frustration seemed to set in. Coyotes forward Jatta Salifu was called for a yellow after an innocuous tap in the back and it seemed like it was about to all unravel for the visitors after a series of successive fouls. However, in the 28th minute, Coyotes FC found a crack and earned a set piece from a foul outside the box. Edwin Navarro set up at an improbable angle for a shot on goal and stuck a hard, low in-swinger which bounced its way through the backline and Nevada cut the lead in half, down 1-2.

IPS’s Prince Saydee was energetic and nearly impossible to contain, and after a well-weighted pass from a central teammate found BJ  Romac making an excellent run down the right wing, Prince put himself in a perfect position to finish a great cross and the home side went back up by two. With just moments left in the first half, the Coyotes made it 2-3; they earned consecutive corners and despite a good clearance by the home side, Nevada were able to feed the ball back into Salifu Jatta, who put it through the box and found a far-post finish by Kieran Toland.

At the half, the two sides swapped directions and now attacking north-to-south, ISPFC were able to earn a set piece within moments of the second beginning. The home side continued to pressure the visitors — if their coach had made any changes, it wasn’t showing. Nate Pogue nearly had his hat trick in the 47th minute after he headed a corner over the crossbar and fizzled a shot high in the 53rd minute after IPSFC made a break into the attacking third. It wasn’t until the 59th minute, after a brilliant cross from the right from Eric Hernandez connected with the head of a floating Paco Thomas, the home side restored the two-goal advantage.

In the clichéd “most dangerous time to concede,” IPSFC did just that; in the 60th minute Nevada earned a free kick about 25 yards out and were able to put a floater onto the head of Jatta, he headed it down and across the box right where Jake Crim could finish to make it 3-4. Two-thirds of the way through the match the competition started to get chippy and at times the ref let the teams play through some rough challenges. The clubs made a series of changes to deal with the fatigue and knocks, it was in the 83rd when the home side earned a free kick from just to the right of the top of the “D.” Prince Saydee struck a left-footed golazo to put, what seemed like, the nail in the coffin for ISPFC. The boys-in-red up 5-3 with less than 10 minutes to go in the USOC qualifier.

Coach Hurst pulled Pogue in the 90th, attempting to eat up clock and give his heavy hitter a pat on the back. Minutes later, Jatta was on the attack down the left flank for Nevada again, and was able to corral the ball in the defender and shoulder free enough space to wrap his foot around the ball and beat the keeper nearside, making it 4-5 deep into second half stoppage time. With the home fans admonishing the ref to call time, the whistle was blown and the visiting UPSL side bowed out of the competition. While speaking to an assistant coach for Nevada post-match, he was solemn and shaking his head, “Credit to them, the home side, they could have tried to hold the lead at 2-0, but they just kept on coming.”

The clubs exchanged the customary professional social media mentions and will move in their separate ways. Nevada will have to get their minds right as they prepare for Azteca in UPSL Wild West North conference play this weekend. International Portland Select FC have drawn another home match for Round 3 of US Open Cup Qualifiers, and will host UPSL Wild West South table-topper JASA RWX (Redwood City) on November 18th. Before that, however, IPSFC will face Kells Swoosh FC this Sunday in the OPSL league play.

- Josh Duder

Lola Vaughn