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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Greenville edges Spokane Velocity on penalty kicks in USL Jagermeister Cup

Spokane Velocity defender Ahmed Longmire, right, and Greenville’s Hayden Anderson go for the ball Saturday at ONE Spokane Stadium.  (Courtesy of Spokane Velocity)
By Justin Reed The Spokesman-Review

The Spokane Velocity’s first opponent, Greenville Triumph FC, traveled back to the area on Saturday, this time in the Jägermeister Cup.

After four goals found the back of the net in a 3-1 Greenville victory on March 9, this game at ONE Spokane Stadium ended in a scoreless draw.

Typically, cup games will go to extra time, with two 15-minute halves, but the group stage of the Jägermeister Cup goes to a penalty shootout if the sides are tied after 90 minutes.

After six rounds, Greenville took the extra point, winning 5-4 in penalties.

Spokane is tied atop the third group with Northern Colorado Hailstorm at five points.

The Velocity have secured points from each of their three Cup matches.

“You’ve got to be in it to win it, so getting results out of each game is important,” Velocity head coach Leigh Veidman said. “We’re in the race for it.”

The top teams from each group advance to the knockout round.

As the game progressed, it didn’t feel as if it would end without a goal.

Both teams had chances throughout the 90 minutes, requiring impressive saves from both keepers.

The first action was in the fifth minute when Velocity players thought they had a penalty. Spokane’s Pierre Reedy went down in the box, but referee Mark Verso waved it off, determining Reedy dragged his foot in search of contact inside of the box.

Spokane started to control the opening few minutes as Greenville was stuck in its own half.

But that changed quickly as the Triumph responded with multiple shots with which Spokane goalie Carlos Merancio had to deal.

The first dangerous chance for Greenville came in the 12th minute, which forced a reaction save from Merancio after a free kick crossed toward the back post and found an open man.

But Spokane, against the run of play, appeared to score in the 26th minute. Luis Gil’s cross found Marcelo Lage, whose shot was saved off the Greensville line by Jamie Smith.

Replays showed the ball appeared to cross the goal line before Smith’s clearance, but no video assistant replay is available to reverse the call.

“I didn’t see it,” Lage said postgame. “Hopefully, there’s some VAR next year in the USL League One, but maybe not. Maybe I’ll shoot it next time where the one the one defender isn’t.”

The first half ended without a goal as no stoppage time was given .

Spokane was upset with its performance, especially on the attacking end, as Greenville was pressing and cutting off every passing lane. It was a sloppy half that Veidman said lit a fire under his team after half.

“We were just not ourselves enough,” Veidman said. “The attacking side of it was much better in the second half.”

The defense had to put together a 90-minute effort as Greenville is the best attacking team in the league, scoring over two goals a game.

Specifically, Lyam MacKinnon, whose six goals are the most in USL League One play.

Spokane spent a lot of time making life difficult for the Swiss national.

“From (Merancio) to the backline to midfield, clean sheets don’t come from the keeper, they come from the team, the guys in the front line, too,” Veidman said.

“It’s a team effort to force them into the areas where we want them, and everybody did a really good job of that tonight,” he added. “Even in the moments where we got a little bit disorganized in our shape, we did a fantastic job still in shutting them down.”

The Triumph have failed to score only twice all season prior to Saturday’s match. They had multiple solid chances, but failed to beat Merancio who had one of his better games as a Velocity player.

“He came up big and big moments,” Veidman said.

Overloading the right side, specifically in the second half, provided the Triumph with a majority of their offensive chances on Merancio.

The center midfield of Spokane pushed the balls outside, not letting Greenville get comfortable in the middle of the pitch.

But Spokane especially came alive in the final quarter of the match as Josh Dolling had two chances, forcing two saves from Gunther Rankeburgn.

For as good as Merancio was on the evening, an 82nd-minute acrobatic save was his best as he slid to his right on a free kick from 30 yards out.

The ball was headed for his top-right corner of the net before he launched up to slap the ball wide.

Spokane responded with a chance as Kimarni Smith’s curling effort from inside of the box just missed tucking inside the top-left corner.

But the final whistle signaled penalties as the teams aligned on the midfield, facing toward the river as the shot takers were finalized.

Spokane went up 1-0 as Greenville’s Tyler Polak’s shot smacked the post before Josh Dolling’s confident attempt was fired into the top right corner, essentially taking Rankeburgn out of the equation.

MacKinnon with a similar make as Dolling, beating Merancio.

Greenville made its final five kicks as the Triumph beat Spokane 5-4 on penalties.

Spokane hosts Mexico’s Chivas de Guadalajara’s under-23 team in the first International friendly for Velocity FC next Sunday at 6 p.m. at ONE Spokane Stadium.