The Grays Harbor Gulls Football Club’s Juanito Lopez had himself a game to remember.Lopez netted all four of his team’s goals to lead Grays Harbor to a 4-2 win over Issaquah FC at Stewart Field on Saturday.
The game was scoreless for most of the the first half with the Gulls holding a clear edge in possession while spending a significant amount of time in the Gunners’ half of the field.
The Gulls (3-4-2 overall) looked to send players on runs down the sidelines to generate chances and found space in the middle of the field. Lopez took advantage of that space when he broke the scoreless tie with a goal in the 34th minute after receiving a pass from Juan Oropeza.
It didn’t take long for midfielders to get the ball on Lopez’s foot again as the striker scored his second golf of the game in the 44th minute to give the Gulls a 2-0 lead heading into halftime. Following the break Issaquah changed to a more offensive formation looking for the equalizer.
After spending the the first 45 minutes in a four-back formation, the Gunners played the second half with three defenders and a five midfielders. The aggressiveness paid off as Issaquah crowded the box in the 49th minute and drew a foul and converted on the subsequent penalty kick.
With the lead cut in half, Gulls head coach Drew Grannemann encouraged his team to take advantage of the Gunners’ three-defender formation in pursuit of an insurance goal.
“The best thing we can do with only three defenders at the back is use Alex Barene and Alex Puga De La Rosa to open the outsides because they only have one person sliding outside,” he said. “We found balls in the middle because we kept trying to suck those defenders out. We tried to keep that aggressive style of play up because we knew they were vulnerable.”
Grays Harbor got its third goal, which turned out to be the eventual game winner, when Lopez came through in the 77th minute. Lopez beat Issaquah’s defenders in a foot race down the sidelines, cut toward the center of the box and released the ball off his foot in the far right hand corner of the goal.
The Gunners tallied a second goal when an Issaquah midfielder got a run down the sidelines, cut into the middle of the field and beat goalkeeper Alexis Garcia on the one-on-one play. Gunners team captain Eddie Henderson said his team was optimistic about the chances of a comeback but acknowledged that it was hard to keep the Gulls at bay with most of their players committed forward.
“We had some good pressure the first 20 minutes of the second half,” he said. “We had a good chance to equalize but we were pushing guys forward and then they got a fourth goal which made it tough mentally to come back.” Lopez said he felt the pressure of the one goal lead and started looking for a fourth goal after Issaquah made it a one-goal game.
“When we were up 3-1, I was a little relaxed but once you see that they’re just a goal away you know you have to start thinking differently,” he said. “If you have a chance you have to take it and once you build the lead you can relax again.”
After getting shut out in last week’s match against Kirkland, four goals represents a step in the right direction for a team that has struggled to score at times this season.
Lopez said he expects another good offensive performance against Federal Way on Saturday.
“I think we’re all getting more comfortable with each other and every game that goes by the chemistry keeps building,” he said. “They’re getting used to what I usually do and we’re getting close to where we actually want to be now.”