Against an opponent that provided a good barometer, the Grays Harbor Gulls Football Club found out where they stand on Sunday.
After a close first half, a second-half surge from one of the top teams in the Western Washington Premier League spelled doom for the Gulls as they were shut out by the Kirkland Goats 6-0 at Stewart Field.
Kirkland entered the match at a disadvantage, having defeated Twin City Union 13-1 a day prior, but the Goats weathered through any fatigue in grounding the Gulls.
Grays Harbor head coach Drew Grannemann came in with a strategy designed to disrupt a patient Kirkland offense that looks to keep possession in the midfield and attacking third.
“We were lucky enough to scout them and we knew they were a possession-heavy team so their whole game plan was to pass it around and tire us out and get us moving east and west,” he said. “In that first half they did a great job with Juanito Lopez cutting off those passes. That’s why they had to play through the goalie probably seven times because they had nothing.”
Both teams exchanged chances in the first half as play remained even. The Gulls had a chance to take the lead in the 32nd minute, but a ball played into the box was controlled by Kirkland’s goalkeeper before any Gull could get a foot on it.
The Goats wound up scoring right before halftime in the 41st minute when a pass into the box beat keeper Alexis Garcia to the far post.
Despite, going into the halftime break down 1-0, Grays Harbor was feeling optimistic about its ability to keep pace with one of the higher-scoring teams in the league.
“We created four or five opportunities we should have put away and it was much more cohesive soccer,” Grannemann said. “We were able to build an attack from all the way in the back and get all the way up the field and connect as many as 10 passes.”
However, Grays Harbor’s promising play didn’t carry over into the second half as Kirkland came out strong after the break, finding space to move the ball down the sidelines and into the middle of the field.
Kirkland notched its second goal when Trent Siedenburg drilled a shot from the edge of the 18-yard box that found the top right corner of the net. Sidenburg said that goal in the 58th minute was key to getting the Gulls off their game. “Getting that second goal was huge for us because it kind of broke them down a little bit and helped us settle in,” he said.
Down 2-0, the Gulls took a more aggressive approach and pulled one of their backs up to the midfield in the hopes of generating more scoring chances, but the Goats feasted on the open field that was freed up with Grays Harbor’s new formation.
Kirkland added another goal in the 63rd minute and struck again seven minutes later to put the game out of reach.
Siedenburg said that the five-goal outburst in the second half came from taking advantage of Grays Harbor’s aggressiveness. “We were trying to high press too much and we regrouped at halftime and talked about how we were going to let the game come to us,” he said. “And we got a lot of opportunities from that.”
The Gulls (2-2-3 overall) will get another chance to play in front of familiar faces when they take on Issaquah FC at 5 p.m. on Saturday at Stewart Field. Grannemann doesn’t want his players too discouraged by the result against one of the league’s top teams.
“Kirkland FC has been an established club for many years and that’s one thing we knew going into this. We had mix of different skills and playing styles and bringing it all together is tough,” he said. “Hopefully, the guys walk away from this knowing that we can put it all together like we did for part of the match.”