ABERDEEN — The Grays Harbor Gulls Football Club closed out its 2018 home schedule in style, scoring double-digit goals in an 11-1 drubbing over winless Twin City Union on Sunday at Stewart Field.
Victor Garcia and Juanito Lopez each scored a hat trick in the game and were bolstered by Alex Puga De La Rosa, who tallied three assists on the day.
The Gulls (5-4-1 overall) could only manage one goal against a 10-man Union side over the first 25 minutes, as shot after shot missed its target. Darian Rifenburg took a pass from Aaron Arias and broke the scoreless tie on a shot from 25-yards out to give the Gulls a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute.
“During that first 20 minutes, we only had one goal,” Gulls head coach Drew Grannemann said. “We dominated possession, we just couldn’t find the net at all. I kind of contribute that to the mentality of that we knew they were playing a man down and probably went too easy on them. … But once (Union) was at full-strength, the floodgates just opened up. Once it was 11-on-11, we started being more aggressive and taking more opportunities.”
Grays Harbor strikers then began to find their range — and the back of the Union net — with just under 17 minutes to go until the half. With Union back to full strength with the appearance of some late-arriving players, the Gulls’ Victor Corona doubled Grays Harbor’s lead when he scored off an assist from Victor Junco.
With much of the first half being played in the Union defensive third of the pitch, Twin City (0-8) had its best chance to score on a run from a TC forward in the 32nd minute, but Grays Harbor goalkeeper Alexis Garcia made a sensational diving stop on a blast from 20-yards out to thwart the attempt.
The Gulls counter-attacked and scored on a nifty give-and-go play between Victor Garcia and Puga De La Rosa, with Garcia scoring to give Grays Harbor a comfortable three-goal lead.
A few minutes later, the scenario played itself out once more as Alexis Garcia made another fearless point-blank save on a Union scoring chance and Victor Garcia scored off an assist from Puga De La Rosa on the back end of another counter attack, deflating the Union side and giving the Gulls a 4-0 lead.
“That’s always one thing we try to stress is that when we are in our defensive third, we want to find a way to build the ball upfield quickly and concisely … to split open opposing defenses,” Grannemann said. “With those counter attacks, we did exactly that.”
Then the Union dam burst. A minute after Garcia made it 4-0, Junco scored his second goal of the game by tapping in a wayward rebound that the Union defense was unable to clear.
Grays Harbor’s Juanito Lopez then scored two goals in quick succession — the first on a hard-angle shot from near the Union goal line followed by a header off a cross from Lalo Lopez —to give the Gulls a commanding 7-0 lead at halftime.
The Gulls would go on to score four goals in the second half from four different players. Anthony Churtin scored on an assist from Lalo Lopez in the 60th minute; Victor Garcia recorded an unassisted goal in the 80th minute; Juanito Lopez with a goal on a direct free kick in the 81st minute and Arias scoring on an assist from Puga De La Rosa in the 82nd minute.
Union’s lone goal of the game came off a penalty kick with 8:17 remaining in the contest.
Though critical of his team’s performance early in the game, Grannemann was pleased with the overall effort.
“We definitely weren’t flawless. We started off a little bit slower than I expected or would like to,” he said. “But once we made some transitions on the field, the leadership really stepped up and some of our older, more confident players really took hold of the club and let them know that we had to get going.”
With the victory Grays Harbor has now won three straight games for the first time this season and currently sits in third place in the Western Washington Premier League standings. After winning the final home game of the season, Grannemann took a moment to reflect on how far the program has come in its inaugural season.
“It’s pretty surreal right now,” he said. “Less than six months ago, we were uncertain where this would go and what would happen. But we’re so happy with the turnout of fans and hopefully we gave them a great show because this is why we do it. We want to play the game and be part of the game, but we want to enjoy the love of the sport with the people of our community. Today was a good exhibition of that.”
Grays Harbor takes on the league’s first-place team in unbeaten Kirkland FC at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Bellevue College.