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Ryland Brooks, Bryce Kahle, Brian Ortiz, Colby Starkel, Bryan Weathington, Yuji Ehret, Matt Smith, Elijah Andrews, Landon Kirby, Daniel Holt & Scotty Breeding

The Force opened their 2024 season on the road against Morelia de Skagit on Saturday afternoon. The trip would see the boys have to battle a 2.5-hour road trip to Sedro Woolley HS, a Sedro Woolley PD officer who pulled over 4 cars in less than 15 minutes right outside the stadium, and pouring rain for the entirety of the match.

That said, the result was worth the effort coming from behind twice to get a draw and the first point of the EPLWA season.

Being on their home field, Morelia attacked early and often with the Force doing everything they could to keep the home team out of the net. After a few tactical adjustment the Force earned their first opportunities of the match and would continue to build momentum. Morelia would score first however, a quick free kick played in a Morelia midfielder into the box where he was able to slot home one on one to take the lead.

Matt Smith & Scotty Breeding track a Morelia forward while Landon Kirby prepares

The Force continued to have opportunities as a result of continued pace and pressure in the opponent's half and were rewarded when Bryce Kahle was able to weave his way past a defender where he was fouled in the box. The resulting penalty was taken by Colby Starkel who smashed a low shot in the bottom right corner past the diving Morelia keeper.

In the second half, the Force coaching staff stayed dedicated to making sure everyone got playing time and started making some changes to the soaked starting lineup. Being the first real game action of the season, the coaching staff is still trying to work out best positions for players to complement each other. Morelia would take the lead again halfway through the second half on some very good team play. Seven passes ended up finding a striker's feet who scored on an uncontested shot that keeper Landon Kirby didn't have a chance to get.

Up 2-1, Morelia only had a couple more attacks the rest of the way as the Force starters and the energy of the subs started to chip away with chance after chance on the Morelia goal. Landon Kirby came up big on a couple of corners and a shot that was headed for the lower corner of his goal before deflecting it wide.

As full time drew closer, adjustments to formation were made to try and get the most out of the attack in the remaining minutes. This move ended up being crucial as it placed right back, Brian Ortiz, in the middle of the field as a defensive midfielder. Ortiz took a shot from 25 that dipped in front of the Morelia keeper giving him all he could handle. Cramping on the shot, it took a couple of minutes for teammate assisted stretching was able to get him back on his feet again but with all the substitutions made, Ortiz would have to stay on.

Four minutes remaining in the 90, deep throw in in the right corner. Adler Medina goes forward to take a long throw. The ball slips in his hands and goes straight into the air 20 feet up. When it comes down 3 players battle for the header resulting in a looping clear to the top of the box where Bryce Smith stood waiting. He swung his foot high above his head to direct it toward goal. As the ball was coming down, cramping and exhausted, Brian Ortiz dove backwards and managed to flick the cross into the upper left corner to level the match.

It was an exciting game with late dramatics and a fair result on the day. Man of the Match went to Ortiz who not only had the game tying goal but was stellar on the defensive line all game prior to that.

The Force will have their first home game of the season this Saturday at 3pm when they take on league finalist from last year Yakima United at Sehmel Homestead Park. Tickets are $10 at the gate but can be ordered online for a discount, just CLICK HERE.

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