‘Orange Card’: Lake Oswego vs Gresham


The Orange Card will be a weekly production aimed at highlighting and analyzing one High School Boys varsity match each week. The column will focus on tactics, formation, and top talent in the state of Oregon. As the season progresses the author will start a Power Ranking system based off of games watched and coaches opinions from around the state.

The game kicked off Wednesday at 6pm with clear skies and temperatures around 75 degrees. Lake Oswego head coach Fraser Morrison started a 4-5-1 formation with Clay Dirkse as the uptop lone-striker. Coach Rex Moffitt for Gresham went with a 4-3-3. Coach Moffitt explained the formation was designed to provide solid defensive cover while allowing their team to exercise their strength in counter-attack football.

The match was slow to work itself into a pattern and Gresham found a goal in the early game chaos. After a poor turnover by Lake Oswego, Gresham found itself with a seemingly innocuous throw-in around the twenty yard line. However, Michael Page, an athletic and talented central midfielder, created a difference with his Rory Delap styled ability to throw the ball into the center of the box. The long throw compounded with the surprise of the Lake Oswego center-backs allowed Zach Turner to find the ball in the box and turn in the early goal. Gresham had the early lead.

The game settled down after that and Lake Oswego seemed to have the better of possession–estimated at 60-40. Coach Morrison’s 4-5-1 formation benefitted Lake Oswego well and their back-four showed competence and composure in passing the ball around the back and building up to the central midfielders.

Ethan Elliott quickly appeared to be the player who would make a difference for Lake Oswego. Elliott, only a sophomore, showed dribbling ability on the ball and demonstrated a powerful yet controlled left footed strike. Around the twenty-fifth minute of the first half the ball worked from Lake Oswego’s back four out to the left winger and then inside to Elliott who made a ten yard run and was able to square up just outside of the box with the ball on his left foot. The shot was low, bounced once, bypassed the keeper and found the left post. The bounce was favorable to Lake Oswego with the ball trickling across the open face of goal. Driske had a slight step advantage but was only able to arrive at the ball when the angle was near impossible to score from and the play died.

Gresham was not out of the game by any measure. The early lead allowed their back four to drop deeper and work the counter attack. Gresham’s center of the park hosted the best player on the pitch. Justin Linn is a complete and dangerous footballer. Physically he resembles Erik Hurtado (of the Vancouver Whitecaps) and demonstrated similar strength and speed. Linn had skill and vision to match his athleticism and he was a constant threat to the Lake Oswego back four, occasionally making chances with runs that started near half field.

Gresham maintained the lead at the half-time whistle. The first ten minutes of the second half showcased a determined Lake Oswego squad. At least five shots on goal loaded the Gresham Goalie’s workload but he was equal to the task. About four of these shots all came from one player, Ethan Elliott. Elliott started the second half pressing a little higher up the pitch, almost placing him in the role of a #10 striker. Elliott managed to work in behind the defensive line and end up with the ball. Lake Oswego’s greatest chance came when David Falson, a skilled and composed left winger, drove in a ball to Elliott in the air and around the penalty spot. Elliott showed great technique on the volley as the ball was heading towards the goal and the shot would be blind but the strike wasn’t pure and the ball went right to the keeper with not much pace and the save was routine.

Despite the onslaught, Gresham’s back line defended well and the shots were almost all from distance and they kept the sheets clean. The goalkeeper did well to make saves against strong shots from Elliott. Lake Oswego’s attack simmered down after that. As Lake Oswego’s play became more direct and over-the-top their effectiveness decreased. The lone-striker in their 4-5-1 was built more for holdup play and the balls behind the line never amounted to anything.

The final moments were tense and Gresham’s midfield played near and tight to the back four. The game simplified into direct attacks with Lake Oswego working the wings and Gresham exclusively attacking via Linn’s counter-attack(Page, the other striker, demonstrated good tactical running, however, and was able to tangle and confuse the two center backs dealing with the counter attacks). One or two chances passed through either team but the quality finish evaded and the match ended with Gresham as the victors.

Man of the Match:

Justin Linn: As stated above, Linn showcased a wide variety of strengths. He could run at the back line with speed and control. Moreover, Linn could maintain possession in the congested center of the park and showed fancy footwork and good awareness in dribbling out of difficult situations. Linn created several chances and would have had some goals to his name if not for some great saves by Lake Oswego’s goalie, Grifin Chambers.

Top Performers:

Ethan Elliott: (Elliott looked to be the only possible source of a goal on the day. His left footed strike was controlled and powerful and two of his free kicks looked threatening. A little ambitious at times, Elliott did manage to ping around 7 shots on goal and they weren’t easy saves.

Grant Donaldson (At right back, Donaldson showed composed technique on the ball, with the ability to ping in an accurate long ball and the good judgement of when to do it. Moreover, Donaldson intercepted multiple passes and managed to make tackles against the talented Justin Linn.)

Owen Van Lehman: (Van Lehman made several great saves and showed good judgment on when to rush out to thwart advancing forwards in the box.)