SEQUIM — A battle of Olympic League 2A Division titans ended up being decided in the contest’s first five minutes.
In a fight on a cold, blustery night for first place atop the Olympic 2A, the Port Angeles Roughriders soccer squad came in to Tuesday’s match riding a five-game shutout streak. It took Sequim all of five minutes to snap that streak.
The Wolves’ Adrian Funston scored in the fifth minute after an outstanding move by teammate Mathys Tanche, who beat a Rider defender to set up a perfect crossing pass and give Sequim a 1-0 lead over rival Port Angeles.
That score held up for the rest of the match as the undefeated and first-place Wolves went on to win 1-0, snapping the Roughriders’ five-game winning streak. Sequim also took command of the league’s playoff chase, opening up a two-game lead over the second-place Riders and North Kitsap.
Funston’s goal was also the first goal scored against the Roughriders in more than 200 minutes of play.
“I expected a little higher scoring game based on our first game [a 5-4 Sequim win],” said Sequim coach Dave Brasher. News that the Roughriders were riding a five-game scoreless streak “got the team fired up” to snap the streak, Brasher said.
“We showed that we’re the best team in the league,” Funston said. “They [the Roughriders] wanted it really bad. We knew it would be a tough game.”
Roughriders assistant coach Andrew Cooper said Tanche was exceptional for the Wolves.
“He was the difference maker. Sequim played a solid game. Their passing and movement were the difference,” Cooper said.
“We responded well” to Sequim’s early goal, “but Sequim asserted control in the second half,” he added.
The speedy Tanche, an exchange student from soccer-crazy Belgium, was a handful all game.
On Funston’s goal, he beat one Riders defender and found himself one-on-one with another Riders defender, who had to put himself between Tanche and the goal mouth. Tanche hit a wide open Funston with a crossing pass to give the Wolves the lead and the momentum early.
“It was a great assist,” Funston said.
Sequim showed what a powerful club it is by dominating much of the match early, effectively using some long passes from the midfield to pressure the Riders’ defense. Ryan Tolberd had a couple of solid chances in the first 10 minutes, including a booming shot that forced Riders goalkeeper Anton Kathol to make a good save.
The Riders were able to respond and at times carried much of the action. Andrew Methner had a solid shot in the 11th minute that went off the top crossbar and the Riders did force Sequim goalkeeper Navy Thomas-Brenske to make one diving save, but for the most part the Wolves’ defense kept the Riders from putting serious pressure on the goal.
It was also the Wolves’ fifth shutout of the year. Brasher thought the Wolves’ back line of Rudy Franco, Chris Morgan and Brandon Benson played outstanding and that Sean Weber and Michael McAleer played well in the midfield.
Funston scored a second goal in the 31st minute, but the referee ruled that Kathol had been interfered with as he was collided with when he went up for the ball and the goal was disallowed.
Tolberd had another scoring opportunity in the first minute of the second half, forcing Kathol to make a diving stop.
Kathol saved his best for last, however, showing that his 200-minute scoreless streak was no fluke. His best save came in the 74th minute when Tanche got behind the Riders’ defense and had Kathol dead to rights one-on-one. Kathol stood strong, making a fantastic save to keep the ball out and the Riders in the match.
Even with the loss, the Riders have an amazing defensive streak going. Since an opening-season 5-4 loss to Sequim on March 12, the Riders have given up two goals in their past seven games — two goals in 280 minutes. Port Angeles has only given up seven goals all season — six of them to Sequim.
Port Angeles head coach Chris Saari named Kathol, Hollund Bailey and Sean Rankin his defensive players of the match and Andrew St. George his transition player of the match.
Sequim ended up outshooting Port Angeles 10-6.
The Wolves (7-0-0 21 points, 7-0-2) next play at Bremerton at 6:45 p.m. Friday. Port Angeles (5-2-0 15 points, 6-2-0) look to bounce back at home at 6:45 p.m. Friday against Kingston (2-5-0, 3-7-0) at Peninsula College.
Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]