Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Needing two points in the final weekend of the regular season, the Spokane Shadow U23s took to the road for a pair of games in the Evergreen Premier League and claimed the Columbia Division title with a 3-1 victory in Yakima Saturday. The Shadow U23s will travel to Kent Saturday for a Semifinal meeting with Seattle Stars.
Looking to avenge an earlier home loss to their division foe and longtime rival, the Shadow took care of business at the SOZO Soccer Complex in the excessive heat. Jake Levine stole the show on the evening. The 18-year old standout scored all three goals in the 3-1 victory to earn the postseason berth and the league's Offensive Player of the Week honor.
He tallied the opening goal of the contest 19 minutes in when Azzam Azzam served a ball in from the right side after a Yakima turnover on their transition. He made it a two-goal advantage before the break when a ball forward from defender Colin Shockman was not fully collected by a Yakima defender before Levine took possession and finished in the 41st.
Five minutes into the second half Alonzo Rojas made things interesting with a goal for the Hoppers, but the defense limited most of the Yakima opportunities to shots from the outside for Carter Auth. Another young defender, 19-year old Luke Livingston, would earn Defensive Player of the Week honors for the contest.
Levine would cap the hat-trick in the 74th on a ball from Eddie Benito, giving him five on the season for the Shadow U23s. The tally finished tied for fourth highest in the league in the regular season behind Washington Premier's Brandon Madsen (10) and the Seattle Stars duo of Cody Buchanan (7) and Tyler Bjork (6).
Though he did not get a shutout on the day, Auth would finish in a 9-way tie for the league lead in shutouts. He and Shadow teammate Luis Hernandez were among nine players with one clean sheet this campaign with no keeper earning a second in what was the league's lowest percentage of shutouts in five years of play with 10 in 44 games at a rate of 11 percent. Last year's shutout rate was the highest at 21 percent. The goals per game was the second highest at 4.11 this season, finishing just shy of the 4.13 rate of 2015.
Saturday's clinching result made Sunday's contest against the Stars a throw-away match, particularly considering the two sides were set to meet again in the semifinals.
Kicking off after the Sounders Women claimed the WPSL Western Conference title against FC Tucson at the Starfire Complex, the Shadow took an early lead eight minutes in when Benito connected with Aidan Chaparro, who marked his return from a lengthy medical absence on the weekend.
Back-to-back goals from Adame Kante and Connor Noblat in the 15th and 19th minutes put the Stars in front. Fatigue from two games in excessive heat took its toll in the second half as the hosts rolled away with the win. Bjork added to his all-time league-leading scoring tally with a goal two minutes after the intermission and Carlos Betancourt capped the contest four minutes from time.
The Shadow will travel to Kent on Saturday for a 3:45 meeting with the Seattle Stars, winners of the Coastal Division with a 7-2-1 record. The match is the first of a doubleheader at French Field as the Stars are also hosting the Northwest Premier League championship following the EPLWA contest. The other EPLWA Semifinal will see Cascade Division champion and top seed Washington Premier (9-1-0) playing host to wild card Bellingham United (5-4-1) on Sunday. In an odd quirk, the two also played a semifinal preview on the weekend with WPFC completing a division sweep of the Hammers with a 3-1 win.
SATURDAY - Spokane Shadow 3-1 Yakima United
SPO: Jake Levine (Azzam Azzam) 19
SPO: Jake Levine (Colin Shockman) 41
YAK: Alonzo Rojas 50
SPO: Jake Levine (Eddie Benito) 74
SUNDAY - Spokane Shadow 1-4 Seattle Stars
SPO: Aidan Chaparro (Eddie Benito) 8
SEA: Adame Kante 15
SEA: Connor Noblat 19
SEA: Tyler Bjork 47
SEA: Carlos Betancourt 86
Final Columbia Division Standings
Spokane Shadow U23 4-6-0... 12 points
Tri-Cities Alliance 3-6-1... 10 pts
Yakima United 1-5-4... 7 pts
Saturday, July 21, 3:45 pm
Spokane @ Seattle - French Field, Kent
Sunday, July 22, 6:30 pm
Bellingham @ Washington Premier - WPFC Complex, Puyallup