BELLINGHAM - Against a strong opponent, sometimes a few scoring chances is all a team can ask for.
Bellingham United may not have flooded IPS/Marathon Taverna's defensive third with scoring opportunities, but the chances were there.
The Hammers didn't capitalize.
"We knew they were a good side coming into it," United coach Lance Calloway said. "We had a few breakdowns in communication, and that's what cost us. We had our chances to put pressure on, but their keeper did a great job."
Next weekend Bellingham United plays in the Challenge Cup, where the Hammers will look to capture the crown jewel of the Pacific Coast Soccer League - a challenge cup title, but Bellingham's chance at winning a Kennedy Cup title ended with a 2-0 loss against Portland's IPS/Marathon Taverna Saturday evening, July 21, at Civic Stadium.
The loss sends Bellingham to a third- and fourth-place match Sunday at Whatcom Community College. Marathon Taverna will play for the right to call themselves Kennedy Cup champions Sunday at Civic Stadium. The Kennedy Cup is a long standing tournament, which pits a host city team, and an Oregon, Washington and British Columbia team against one another in a four-team playoff.
"We didn't get the best warm-up before the game, because the game before went into overtime," Bellingham United's Brendan Quilici said. "We came out flat and not in the best shape."
Bellingham's slow start proved to have repercussions.
In the 12th minute, Marathon Taverna forward Nino Ayala took advantage of a miscue between United keeper Leo Cohen and a Bellingham defender.
Cohen left his position in front of goal and charged at Ayala while Ayala and the United defender scrapped for possession 15 yards out from the end line. Ayala was able to poke the ball around Cohen towards United's goal. With the ball drifting dangerously towards Bellingham's net, the United defender and Ayala raced for the ball. Ayala beat the BUFC defender and put Marathon Taverna up 1-0.
The Portland club tallied five shots on goal in the first half, while Bellingham struggled to find a way though Marathon Taverna's back line.
United's Tyler Bjork had the best chance to equalize in the first half. A BUFC midfielder struck a low liner from right to left that found Bjork, who sprinted down the left side of the field, five yards in front of goal at the left post. Bjork struck the ball with his head but put his shot left of the post.
"We had a tough time getting behind them and, when we did, we didn't finish well," Calloway said.
Quilici said the Hammers didn't change anything tactically in the second half, but Bellingham created a few more scoring chances during the second 45 minutes.
"We just picked up our work rate and got balls in better," Quilici said. "We didn't change anything."
In brief periods between the 60th and 75th minute, United appeared poised to tie the match. In the 60th minute, Oscar Jimenez hit a threatening corner into the 18-yard box. The ball found the foot of Quilici, who booted a low shot from 15 yards out. The shot deflected onto the foot of Bjork, who couldn't quite stick his leg out in time to redirect the ball toward goal.
Marathon Taverna put a close to United's chance of a win when Taverna forward Pablo Salinas slotted a goal past Cohen in the 80th minute during a counter attack one-on-one situation.
Bellingham's leading goal scorer, Kellan Brown, had a chance to make the score line appear a bit more attractive in the final moments of the match. Brown snuck behind Marathon Taverna's back line and had a one-on-one opportunity with Taverna keeper Michael Lockwood, but Lockwood made a wonderful save to preserve a shutout for the visiting team.
Marathon Taverna finished with six shots on goal. Bellingham put four on frame.
"The more game reps we can get is what we want," said Quilici on how United can use the Kennedy Cup as a tune up for the Challenge Cup.
The Hammers face either San Carlos All-Stars or Okanagan Challenge at 11 a.m. Sunday, July 22, at Orca Field on Whatcom Community College's campus.
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
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