Dave Berto says he’s finally getting heal thy.
No, it wasn’t his knees, his back or those other run-of-the-mill soccer injuries. It’s his birth certificate.
“Age,” said the 29-year-old Spokane forward. “It takes me longer to get in shape.”
But on Saturday night, it was Berto who played a key role in jump-starting the Shadow, scoring one goal and adding an assist in Spokane’s 3-1 win over Bellingham before 809 spectators at Joe Albi Stadium.
Zane Higgins, another senior statesman at 27, also contributed with one goal and an assist.
The win was Spokane’s second of the weekend and improved its league-leading record to 6-0 in the USISL Premier League Northwest Division, 7-0 overall. Bellingham is tied for second with Cascade at 3-4 in league play and overall.
For the second straight night, it was Berto’s and Higgins’ offense and Spokane keeper Josh Fouts’ defense that proved to be the difference.
Fouts turned away 6 of 10 shots after entering the game with a scant .71 goals-against average. In Friday’s 2-1 win at Yakima, Fouts turned away 14 shots.
Bellingham’s Shane McCorkle broke up Fouts’ shutout at the 87:20 mark when he flicked a header into the back post.
Long before the Orcas showed some offensive spark, Higgins powered in the match’s first goal at 31:50 to give the Shadow a 1-0 halftime lead. After taking a pass from Chad Brown, Higgins slipped past his defender and nailed a shot into the far post. The goal came just minutes after missing a wideopen header.
“That gave me a little inspiration to go back and score a goal,” Higgins said. “I should have put the first one in.”
Higgins assisted Berto at 72:28 to give Spokane a 2-0 lead.
“It was nice,” Berto said. “It was a great ball that I got from Higgins on the side and there wasn’t much to do with it, just finish it. Those are the ones you like to get.”
The goal was Berto’s third in four games.
Bellingham’s late goal cut Spokane’s lead to 2-1. Just 40 seconds later, Spokane put the finishing touches on the win when Berto lofted a long ball to Brett Fink. Fink held off two defenders to score.
“There was a little bit of tiredness out there, but I thought the first half we played very well with possession of the ball,” said Shadow coach Sean Bushey, who returned home with the team from Yakima after 2 a.m. Saturday. “The hardest thing to do is score.
“Fortunately we got the 3-1 results, and in close games, we know we’re going to be in it.”
Shadow 3, Orcas 1
First half - 1. Spokane, Higgins (Brown), 31:50. Second half - 2, Spokane, Berto (Higgins), 72:28. 3, Bellingham, McCorkle (St. Germain), 87:20, 4. Fink (Berto), 88:00.
Shots on goal - Spokane 13, Bellingham 10. Saves - Spokane: Fouts 6. Bellingham: Enslow 6.