BELLINGHAM -- Tyler Bjork didn't get six goals, but he and his Bellingham United teammates worked hard enough to create at least that many good scoring opportunities for the Evergreen Premier League's leading scorer.
As a result, the Hammers' 4-2 win over Wenatchee before an enthusiastic crowd on Saturday, June 28, at Civic Stadium was a victory they could be exceptionally proud of.
"I am very proudful of our boys," coach Lance Calloway said even before the game, displaying some verbal creativity not long before his players turned in even better on-the-field communication.
Bjork scored two goals, one on an assist by Conlon Kiffney, to give him 11 goals for the EPL season. Kiffney, who was named Man of the Match, and midfielder Kurtis Pederson also scored.
The Hammers improved to 6-4-1 in league play over the fifth-place Capitals (4-7), solidifying Bellingham's hopes of moving from fourth place to at least the second spot in their final three games.
"You know, Tyler's six goals (against Yakima three weeks ago) were the most amazing thing I've seen at the adult level," said Calloway. "To see that many goals in 34 minutes ... But I actually enjoyed watching our defensive effort (in a 2-0 loss to the Spokane Shadow in Bellingham's previous game) even more. We really took it to them in the second half and played very well in a game that really was a tale of two halves. I was very proud of our team."
Calloway could be proud of both his offense and defense against Wenatchee.
Were it not for often brilliant goalkeeping by Wenatchee's Colin Benham-Marin, who had 11 saves including 11 in the Bellingham-dominated first half, the quick, elusive Bjork might well have had at least four goals, and maybe more.
Only eight minutes into the match, Kiffney made a pretty cross from the middle to Bjork on the right side and Bjork converted with an artistic side shot. The Wenatchee goalie, as good as he was, had no chance.
Bellingham took a 2-0 lead in the 33rd minute when Kiffney carefully and expertly used the bottom of his foot to make sure a header pass from Bjork would not be wasted.
Bjork scored on a free kick from the 20-yard line with a powerful, low boot in the 54th minute. Pederson scored on a header off a fine corner kick from Dan Anderson in the 76th minute.
Wenatchee showed spirit, scoring two minutes after the Hammers' second and third goals on scores by Yonatan Rodriguez and Eleazar Galvan. Bellingham goalkeeper Nicolas Terentjev, a Western Washington University junior in his first start, had little or no chance to stop those goals, but he finished with five saves including four in the second half in a promising effort.
"I'm not (entirely) happy," Calloway said before the game. "We still should have a better record. But the nice thing is that except for one game, a 5-2 loss to Vancouver, we've been in every game."
Calloway is very pleased with how the new eight-team league is turning out.
"I'm very proud that I helped form the new league, because it's great for soccer in our state," he said. "Our attendance tops the league, with more than a 600 average."
The Hammers' back line of ever-hustling Uche Ugwoaba, Bailey Martin, Chris Jepson and Carlos Badillo was exceptionally tough and alert in the first half, allowing only three shots.
Spelling of Conlon Kiffney's name corrected on June 30, 2014.