Bellingham United and the Olympic Force have advanced to the Western Indoor Soccer League Final after exciting, contentious victories in February 20th’s semifinals. In Bremerton the Force held off Sporting Everett 8-4 before over 500 fans. In Bellingham the Hammers edged the Tacoma Stars Reserves 5-4 before 460 fans. The two will meet on Saturday night February 27 at the Bellingham Sportsplex to decide the second-ever WISL Champion.
Bellingham United-5 Tacoma Stars Reserves–4
BELLINGHAM, WA— (club report) Bellingham United F.C. clinched their spot in the WISL final courtesy of a 5-4 victory over the Tacoma Stars Reserves on Saturday night at the Bellingham Sportsplex.
Player-coach Brendan Quilici tallied two goals for United and after the game said he loved the fight that his team showed. “I liked how we battled,” he said. “With [Tacoma] it’s always been a battle and we just stuck it out. Last week we kind of let up in the second half, but this time we finished strong.”
The first quarter saw a cagey match contested between the two teams. The Hammers took the lead within the first five minutes, though, courtesy of Quilici, one of the top scorers in the regular season.
The second quarter was significantly more physical and led to three blue cards issued. Richard Henderson was able to take advantage of a Stars mistake and navigated his way through the defense to make the score 2-0 heading into the intermission.
Tacoma was able to grab a goal back several minutes into the second half through Alex Vogt, whose deflection of a Tyler John shot to cut the deficit in half. The physicality of the match was ever-present in the second half as well and resulted in a small scuffle near the center circle. Once tempers had simmered down, one player from each team was issued with a blue card, leading to several open minutes of five a side soccer. United exploited the opportunity with Oscar Jiminez burying a feed from Uche Ugwoaba.
In the fourth quarter, both teams traded goals before Qulici bagged his second goal of the night five minutes from full time. The three-goal cushion seemed significant enough, but a late charge from Tacoma cut the Hammers’ lead to one with 20 seconds remaining. In the final moments of the match, several blocked shots from the United defense helped to maintain their lead and secure the win.
Another large crowd, 460 excited fans, were on hand to support the Hammers and Quilici said the local support has been an important part of their success. “We’ve got so many fans and they make it such a great atmosphere.”
The victory means United will host the WISL championship game next Saturday at the Bellingham Sportsplex.
Olympic Force-8 Sporting Everett FC-4
BREMERTON, WA— Izzy Deluna and Miles Nilsen each scored twice as the Olympic Forcer advanced to the WISL Final with an 8-4 win over Sporting Everett before 502 fans at the Olympic Sports Center.
Defender Victor Kelmel got the Force on top in the first quarter. Another defender scored to make it 2-0 Olympic when Alhassan Awudu dsiplayed some nifty footwork with a turn and shot from the top of the box.
Sporting Everett roared back with goals from Brayton Knapp and Andrew Escalante and it was 2-2 in the second quarter. Escalante got the ball in his own half and sprinted down the right side before beating Force goalkeeper David Meherg.
The Force returned fire and were up 4-2 at halftime after Izzy Deluna and Miles Nilsen scored the first of their two braces.
The third quarter unraveled a bit as a multitude of blue cards showered the field. They went the way of Sporting, who spent over half the quarter up a man — but could not capitalize on that advantage. Eventually the Force broke through when Matthew Eronemo raced down the left side and scored from a very tight angle as the crowd went crazy.
Gus Bermudez made it 6-2 Force in the 4th quarter, but again Sporting fought back. They scored twice on a 6th attacker, including a second from Escalante, and it was 6-4.
The Force pulled away when Miles Nilsen blasted in a ball from close range during a goal-mouth scramble, and Izzy Deluna scored a penalty shootout to make the final 8-4.
The Force travel to Bellingham on Saturday February 27th to face the Hammers in the WISL Final. BUFC gave Olympic their only loss of the season, 9-4 in Bellingham during the regular season.