RICHLAND -- Gerardo Lopez may have 10 years or so on the majority of the players in the 28-team National Star Soccer League.
But the 35-year-old forward wasn't just older during Columbia River Futbol Club's 6-1 win over Shelton Timberland FC on Saturday at Bomber Field in Richland.
He was flat out better.
The Pasco resident found enough holes in Shelton's defense to score Columbia River's first two goals before a recovering ankle injury kept him from playing the second half.
"It feels good scoring. I still feel like I can do it, but my legs were getting tired," Lopez said through an interpreter. "As long as I can play, I'll keep going."
Lopez has been one of the NSSL's most productive forwards with six goals, leading CRFC to a 7-1 record and the top spot in the Northwest Conference. He may not be the fastest player on the field, but he certainly knows how to set himself up for a goal.
"Our guy up front is pretty deadly," said Columbia River FC coach Octavio DoValle. "He plays with saavy, and he's smart. If he can't score, he'll set somebody else up for a goal."
Shelton started the game at an immediate disadvantage after one of their team vans got lost in Ellensburg and never made it to Richland. As a result, the Olympia-based club was forced to play with just 10 players.
Shelton almost lost another player to a red card after goalkeeper Oscar Salvatirra was called for a hand ball outside of the 18-yard box on a Columbia River breakaway in the 29th minute. But DoValle convinced the referee to allow Salvatirra to continue playing.
"The ref was reluctant, but we talked him into it," DoValle said. "He came to our sideline and asked, 'Is that what you want to do?' "
It wasn't just the man advantage that allowed Columbia River to outmatch Shelton. Mostly it was team speed, consistent possession of the ball and good ball movement that led to a 34-5 shot advantage. Without a few impressive saves by Salvatirra, the score could have easily reached double digits.
"We wanted to take advantage by stretching the field," DoValle said. "We tried to play more side-to-side."
Shelton did manage to score one goal to open the second half when Jose Apaez chipped a 40-yard free kick that landed in front of CRFC keeper Octavio Virrueta, eluded him on the high bounce and slipped under the crossbar in the 58th minute to cut the lead to 3-1.
"It did a really weird thing in front of me," said Virrueta, who has allowed just eight goals in the team's eight games. "Oh well."
Mike Chavez, a Kennewick graduate, assisted on Lopez's second goal and scored off an assist from Connell's Juan Arias in the 44th minute to cap the first-half scoring. Pasco grad Victor Perez scored two goals in the second half to put the game away.