EAST BREMERTON — The Oly-Pen Force nearly escaped their regular season finale with a win and three points, but after an unfortunate free kick deflection they had to settle for a draw.
The Force led 2-1 with eight minutes to go when a Spokane Shadow free kick from the left side hit a member of the wall, changing its direction and sending it into the back of the net to tie the match at 2.
The teams were aggressive in the final few minutes, playing for the win with nothing but pride on the line, but the score remained 2-2 as the final whistle sounded. The Force finished the season 2019 Evergreen Premier League season in third place in the Rainier Conference with a 4-4-2 record.
“It was a long game, legs were tired,” said midfielder Gabriel Threadgold, a recent Central Kitsap graduate.
Both sides were a little thin on the bench. The Force had three subs while Spokane played the first half without any until a couple of reinforcements arrived.
The match was scoreless through most of the first half until an offensive explosion saw three goals scored within seven minutes.
Spokane opened with a pretty goal from Mike Ramos, whose hard strike from about 20 yards away was put in the perfect spot to give his team a 1-0 lead.
The Force responded with two quick goals. Four minutes after Spokane scored, Joe Sammartino took a long pass out of his own half and drove to the net to pull the defense away from the top of the box. Mitchell Balmer was wide open as he crashed the net and Sammartino gave him a layup to tie the game.
Just three minutes after that, Emmanuel Saah sent a long ball up to Sammartino who got behind the defense for a breakaway. Sammartino put away with team-leading eighth goal of the campaign and the Force held a 2-1 lead.
The Force defending frantically over the course of the second half, doing its best to keep Spokane out of the dangerous areas. But after a foul gave the Shadow a free kick from about 25 yards away, Ramos took his best crack at it and got a lucky deflection for his second goal of the game in the 83rd minute.
It was an up-and-down season for the Force. They dropped their first game to PacNW SC and then beat the Seattle Stars, Washington Premier and Vancouver Victory to put themselves in good position in the standings. They even earned a hard-fought draw with PacNW SC in Week 4 before losing a close match to the Oly Town Artesians in Week 6.
The Force was in the hunt for the playoff until the second-to-last weekend of the season, but couldn’t get by the Washington Premier a second time and PacNW SC clinched a postseason berth with a 3-2 win over Bellingham United.
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MKrulishKDN.