EMFC Azul’s June 15 home match against Portland Rain may not have gone completely according to plan, but nevertheless the Eugene Women’s Premier Soccer team showed great determination and defensive prowess in attempting to keep their northern rivals, who lead EMFC (Eugene Metro Fútbol Club) by one position in the Northwest league, at bay. Friday night’s end-to-end match was nothing short of gladiatorial, and it’s a queer characteristic of soccer that time moves all too slowly when your team is fighting to stay in the lead; but when they fall behind — as EMFC unfortunately did early in the second half — it sometimes feels as though the clock is ticking in double time.
The air at South Eugene High was perfumed with spirit, especially during halftime, which saw contestants of different ages trying their luck in a penalty shootout against the goalkeeper for EMFC’s men’s team, and winners and runners-up alike took home prizes ranging from $25 to T-shirts.
The name of the game within regulation time, though, was grueling defense for both teams, and Eugene goalkeeper Elise Nord put in a marvelous effort to keep the scores even just before halftime. Had an additional goal been conceded before the break, the repercussions might have proved dire. The number of goals scored throughout a season factor into potential tiebreakers when it comes to the league standings, so it is always the optimum choice to keep the other team’s goal tally as low as possible — even if they are winning.
With this said, it certainly wasn’t the case that Portland Rain ran rings around Azul; possession percentages were closely matched. Inevitably, it became a matter of guts: waiting for any meager break in the heavy defensive lines that both teams brought onto the pitch, seeing the opportunity to score and taking it. It’s just too bad that a second opportunity never came for EMFC.
At the final whistle Portland Rain led EMFC 2-1, but it was valuable experience for the green Eugene team, whose members have perhaps not yet had the chance to completely lock into a rhythm. The future remains bright, as does the weather.
The next EMFC Azul home game starts 7 pm Friday, June 29, against current league leaders Issaquah SC, at South Eugene High School.