The Fish were riding high after their impressive 5-1 Win vs Seattle Umoja, but knew this past weekend was going to be a tough with only a day break between playing USL-2 Power House, Ballard FC, and 2nd place Lacey Lights, out of the Cascadia Premier League.
Away Friendly vs Ballard FC
A little bit about the Pacific Northwest’s Newest USL 2 Team, Ballard FC: “The club was founded in 2021 and is owned by former Seattle Sounders FC player Lamar Neagle, Chris Kaimmer, and Sam Zisette. They are based in Ballard, WA, and play home matches at the Interbay Soccer Field, a 1,000-seat stadium in Interbay. The club’s largest supporters group is The Bridge Keepers.” – Wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballard_FC
Original System Works, But an Unlucky Touch
Steelheads stuck to their game plan by pressing at half field and forcing Ballard to play wide. 17-Minutes into the half, Ballard FC found themselves with a well-placed cross into the box where Ballard’s top scorer Alex Mejia found a perfect opportunity to place a header on goal. Fortunately, Goalkeeper Dorian Lair found himself ready to make a full stretch dive to his left, snagging the ball out of the air. The half did see Jacen Stein connect with Cristiano Whitaker for a shot on goal, but it was right at the keeper for an easy save. Ballard. Controlled the majority of the ball, but were unable to break down the defense of the Steelheads. It took until the 45th minute for Ballard to score; a low shot from the 18-yard line that took a deflection off one of the Steelhead’s players. The deflection was enough to get past Dorian Lair making it 0-1. The half would end 0-1 Ballard FC
More Pressure & Unfortunate Penalty
The 2nd half would see the Fish continue to stick with their game plan that kept Ballard at bay until the 68th minute when they were awarded a penalty kick as Ballard’s forward went down with minimal contact. Peter Kingston stepped up for Ballard to take the PK. Dorian Lair got an arm to the shot but it somehow managed to creep underneath to make 0-2. With Time running out Steelheads head coach Dagi Kesim made some tactical subs, The Fish started pressing higher, forcing a few turnovers that led to a chance for Karim Piottin. After a beautifully placed through ball by Stein, Piottin found himself 1v1 with the keeper but placed the shot just to the right for an easy save. With 10 minutes left in the game, The Steelheads make a keeper change, Luke Brezak came in for Lair and saw him make two key saves to keep Ballard out of the net for a 3rd goal. (See video) The game would finish 0-2 but The Fish can hold their heads high as they are the only non-USL-2 team to hold Ballard under six
“I was very proud of how organized we looked against a very well-coached team. They also have players who have their way open to go to Europe or at least MLS. We created more clear opportunities than they did but our finishing wasn’t as critical. I was proud of my boys nevertheless.”Head Coach & Technical Director Dagi Kesim
Home vs Lacey Lights
Smokey Point, WA
Lair Up Top and a Stein Goal
The Lacey Lights have been the surprise of the Cascadia Premier League. The last time the Fish met Lacey, they were able to hand the Steelheads their 1st league loss outside of Wenatchee in three years. They knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game, but with the Fish going back to the tactics that won them the league in 2019, they knew they had a good chance to get a win. Luke Brezak started for the Fish in goal and Head Coach Dagi Kesim opted to play Dorian Lair up front. In the 18th minute of the game, Lair chested a ball down from a goal kick at the half-field and played the ball wide to Karim Piottin who played a cross into Jacen Stein for his 7th goal of the season 1-0 Fish.
Lacey had a couple of shots from a distance but was unable to get a clear look at the goal. The half would end 1-0.
2nd half recap: Lacey
The 2nd half would see 5-6 throw-in Set pieces for the fish, but they could not convert off of them. Thankfully, the defense and tactics of the Steelheads held firm and were able to keep the clean sheet for a 1-0 WIN. Lacey has now dropped 9 points in 3 games which has led to an opportunity for the Steelheads to finish runner-up in the Cascadia Premier League for the second season in a row.
“I saw the improvements of the Lacey team from our first game… so I brought two vicious outside players to match them and catch them off guard. Putting our keeper in at center forward messed the balance of the center backs. Dorian is very strong on air and he definitely brought something that Lacey didn’t see from us in the last game. Great goal from Jacen and even better assist from the best left wing back in Washington Karim.“Head Coach Dagi Kesim
Up next for the Fish:
The Steelheads have two league games remaining this season, as they look to finish runner-up for the 2nd season in a row. The fish will play Nido Augila twice to finish out the season, July 24th in Seattle and July 30th at Dick cardinal stadium.
From around the league:
Umoja Beat Nido 2-1 but unfortunately this will be the last league game played by Umoja, as they have been removed by the league for endangerment of players, referees, and fans. Wenatchee has officially been crowned Champions of the Cascadia Premier league for the second year in a row. Congratulations to our friends in central Washington well deserved!