Spokane Shadow Win EPLWA - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Spokane Shadow Win EPLWA

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© Spokane Shadow win Evergreen Premiere League © Spokane Shadow win Evergreen Premiere League
By Spokane Shadow

 With Sound Sound winning 2-0 approximately an hour earlier in Vancouver, the Spokane Shadow kicked off the Evergreen Premier League’s final game of the season Sunday night at Spokane Falls CC Stadium needing a victory in order to claim the league’s inaugural championship. Two goals from Sam Engle and another from Mike Ramos pushed the Shadow to a 3-0 victory against Wenatchee United in the second half in a dominant performance start to finish, giving the team the opportunity to finally celebrate after a grueling title chase that never saw the Shadow take the field in first place the entire season.

Having started a week later than most and losing its first two games at home, the Shadow played catch-up for the full 2014 campaign, nabbing key draws and victories in the right places to keep the title within reach.

“I was pleased with the process. A little rough at the start with a shaky beginning, but I think we got all of our guys in and they were able to settle down so there was some consistency there,” said Shadow head coach Chad Brown. “It allowed me to be consistent with training and it allowed the guys to have some consistency which is always, in my opinion, huge in trying to win games and focus on getting better.” 

As time went on the consistency and good run of form turned into an amazing streak that saw the club go unbeaten on the road and finish the year out with a 12-game unbeaten streak in which they allowed just six goals for a league-best 11 goals allowed tally for the year. 

“We prided ourselves on the defensive side after the first two games, and again we were finally able to get some consistency from the guys. For me, it’s hats off to the guys - we had a pool of 30-40 players - throughout the course of it and we were able to compete every day. It was fun for the guys; it was good for the guys. It was really fun for me to be involved with a group that has some pride in what they are doing and wanted to get better. They were all committed and worked hard for each other and themselves, and I think they will be better for it come their fall seasons (at college) hopefully and they can have big impacts for their teams.”

The Shadow dominated from the opening whistle with goalkeeper Andrew Glaeser (Walla Walla HS) barely being tested on the day courtesy of a back line that quickly squashed nearly every Wenatchee attack, and had numerous dangerous chances by several players in the first half go for naught. In the end, the game it belonged to the duo of Sam Engle and Mike Ramos, who seemed to feed off one another as though they had been teammates for years.  

Five minutes into the second half, the Shadow finally broke the stalemate. Ramos (University HS) got the ball on the left side and worked deep into the box before cutting back and sending the ball across the box to a wide open Sam Engle (Whitworth U), who brought it down and took a touch to the side to create some space before knocking it to the left of goalkeeper Colin Benham-Marin from about 12 yards. The long-awaited tally was the first of the year for the striker, who clearly showed his pleasure in finally getting the monkey off his back in the goal celebration. Six minutes later he added a second. Ramos possessed the ball inside the box just beyond the penalty spot and slid it left to Engle, who was open again. Engle calmly slotted it into the far corner from about 12 yards.  

“I was happy to finally get a goal. I’d been working hard and Chad kept his faith in me, and I was happy to help the team win the championship,” said Engle. “Getting to play with Mike was great. He is a phenomenal player and he helped to make me better throughout the season.”

Continued back-and-forth play between the two nearly resulted in completion of a hat-trick in the 67th. Ramos and Engle combined well again with Engle taking the initial shot only to see it blocked. The rebound, however, fell out to a wide-open Ramos, who ripped it inside the right post from about 17 yards out in the center of the area. It was his 11th of the campaign, ranking second in the league behind 13 by Bellingham’s Tyler Bjork. 

Glaeser finished with four shutouts, which was also second in the league with South Sound’s Chris Kintz picking up a fifth while playing injured at Vancouver. The Shadow as a team, however, finished with the most shutouts (seven) with Keane Ellis (Gonzaga U) and Cody Lang (Lewis & Clark HS) posting clean sheets earlier this year

Despite having the vast majority of possession, the Shadow could not find a way to get the ball in the back of the net in the early going. Fourteen minutes in Graison Le (Gonzaga U / Coeur d’Alene HS) smacked a 24-yard effort off the center of the crossbar. Two minutes later a ball up the middle found a gap in the center of the defense, allowing Le to run onto the ball and fire from the edge of the area, but it was within reach of Benham-Marin, who made the first of several quick-reaction saves. 

In the 19th minute, both teams nearly tallied. Ramos made a run up the middle that attracted the attention of the defense, allowing him to slip it out left to a wide-open Juan Valderrama, who took a few touches and directed a shot on goal from 17 yards. Wenatchee would quickly counter with Eduardo Perez getting the best look of the evening at the other end only to see it foiled eight yards from goal at the last moment by the defense. 

Valderrama (U of Great Falls) had another of several chances in the 28th minute when – open again - he got the ball on the left side of the box and smashed it on goal from 10 yards only to see the keeper deny him once more. Moments later Ramos got the ball on the left edge of the area and sent a ball from a tight angle through the mouth of the goal, eliciting gasps from the crowd only to go unfinished by any of his teammates. 

“When we play as a team we do really well, and I am very happy with our success,” said Valderamma, who has transitioned from right back to midfield this season. “It has been a lot of hard work and I have learned a lot. I have improved so much this summer not only in learning how to play in midfield, but in my mentality and technical skills.” 

Moments after coming on to pair with Engle in a slight tactical shift from Brown’s usual lone-striker formation, Timmy Mueller (Post Falls HS) nearly scored with a low shot from about 14 yards that the keeper dropped down to smother in the 32nd minute. 

Over the next few minutes, the new formation began to show its potential with Engle and Ramos beginning to really click. 

In the 35th, a ball up the middle put Engle well behind the high back line of Wenatchee, leaving him in a one-on-one situation with the keeper that ended controversially when Benham-Marin only received a yellow for tackling Engle three yards outside of the box to deny the scoring opportunity. Two minutes later Ramos put the team’s second off the woodwork, connecting with the post. 

The championship is Spokane's ninth title having won several regular season and playoff championships at the divisional and conference levels during its initial 10-year run from 1996-2005 in the USL Premier Development League.

“Thanks to the Shadow and thanks to everybody that is involved: Gerald, Abbas, Patrice, Niko, Rich and the guys,” Brown added after the game. “Obviously it's a massive team effort involving many hard-working individuals and volunteers, and I feel like we did a good job. I think our fans were the best in the league and our organization was the best in the league. I am sure that the guys felt that and worked hard to keep a standard that starts from the top all the way down.”
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