Less than 24 hours after a hard fought 1-1 draw with Washington Premier/South Sound Shock, the Force men were back in action at home against Oly Town Artesians. The Force had won the previous meeting at Evergreen College 3-1 and after a good performance the day before, were hoping to continue the upswing for the weekend.
The game started with a lot of promise as Hidalgo slashed a ball through the goal box that somehow managed to elude all the Force attackers trying to get a touch. The Force not able to tuck it away left the door open for Kyle Witzel to slam home the opening goal in the 9th minute and the Force would have to fight back from behind again. The lead was almost short lived as Hidalgo took the ball down the right side and put a cross in that beat all the defenders and the Artesian keeper but young forward Alex Bradbury couldn't get on top of the bouncing ball and sent it just over the top of the empty net.
The rest of the first half was all Force save for one Oly Town opportunity that looked almost identical to their goal. King Lewy wasn't going to get beat on the same shot twice and palmed the shot away. At the end of the first half, the Force held the edge in possession, shots and quality chances. The legs of the Force players looked a bit heavy from the previous day's game and the final touch just wasn't there. Both teams broke at the half with Oly still leading 1-0.
The second half would see the Force put the Oly defense through the gauntlet. The game needed some extra energy and it was provided by veteran Matt Olson. Olson shut down the right side of the field, seriously limiting the Artesian's attacking options but he didn't stop there. Matty O got in on the attack constantly. In the 51st minute he whistled a cross to Potts who had a great strike that just cleared the bar. Another cross tipped away for a corner a few minutes later. Every time the Artesians tried to attack the right side of the Force defense, the ball ended up in their own box courtesy of Matty O. This earned the former St. Martin's grad the Cervesa Modelo Man of the Match.
The Force actually drew level on the day in the 63rd minute from a free kick on the left side of the box. The cross came in and was headed goalward by Big Viss. The Artesian keeper tried to smack the ball over the bar but actually hit it into the crossbar and back into the box. The ball was headed toward goal again but this time off the post and it rebounded to Sammartino who drove it into the goal. The whistle blew for an offside on someone but through the cluster in the box and the fact that everyone was behind the ball, nobody is really sure how or who it was on. The frustration from this wouldn't last too long as the Force continued to press.
They would finally have their answer in the 70th when Olson played Sammartino in toward goal. Joe deciding against the early cross, dropped his right shoulder on the defender and cut left. The defender, off balance and panicked, swung a right leg at a futile attempt to knock the ball away, but the ball was already gone and all he caught was two Sammartino legs. The penalty was awarded by the referee and Aceves stepped up to draw level burying the shot in the right corner.
The Force weren't done. The press for the win continued. In the 75th minute Bugbee got a step of clear space and hit an absolute screamer that was just a touch over the bar. Overall, the Force out shot the Artesians 10 to 2 in the second half and had 8 corners to the Artesian's 3 for the whole game. Then we were in stoppage time. With the clock on the referee's watch winding down, Sammartino found himself in on goal. He drove into the box from the right side, one more touch to set up the shot, the keeper set his feet hoping for one final save. Joe sliced the ball across the goal searching for the side netting on the far side. The ball sliced past the post by inches and continued on a journey wide. The referee blew his whistle signaling that would be the final touch of the game.
The Force men came into the weekend having dropped their last 9 points and while they came away with 2 draws, the bleeding seems to have been stopped. They will now travel to Poulsbo for the first time ever to play host to the league leading Seattle Stars. The game is July 16th at North Kitsap High School and kickoff is set for 3pm. This is the first time the Force have ever visited the north end of Kitsap for a game and they are excited to welcome everyone out to their next to last game. You can pre-purchase your tickets by clicking the link from the home page.