May 17: Victoria Highlanders vs. Kitsap Pumas (Victoria, B.C.)
By: James Nielsen, Highlanders FC Communications
VICTORIA – The Victoria Highlanders kicked off their second match of the Premier Development League season, May 17 at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria, B.C. After going down early in the match off of a Tommy Catalano goal, the home squad was able to level the game after Blair Sturrock notched his first goal of the young season, helping to earn his side a draw to maintain their Northwest Division lead.
The Highlanders first opportunity to pull ahead in the match came just 12 minutes in, as a well placed feed from midfielder Cam Hundal found fullback Kevan Brown. Moving into the 18-yard-box, Brown fired a low blast to the near post that Kitsap ‘keeper Matt Grosey dove across to stop.
Less than five minutes later, Puma Tommy Catalano received a cross-pass inside box, playing it off his chest before firing a low bouncing shot that slipped past Watson’s left side to put the visiting side up 1-0, silencing the Victoria crowd in the process.
The Highlanders had an opportunity to even the match immediately following the goal, with a Tyler Hughes free kick making its way into the attacking zone that forced Kitsap to kick it out of play awarding the Highlanders a corner. On the ensuing play, Victoria’s Ryan Ashlee managed to get a header on net that redirected into Grosey’s arm.
Play settled down as both sides attempted to find a rhythm, with Kitsap’s defence thwarting any potential breaks by Victoria, whose next quality opportunity didn’t arise until the 31st minute. A streaking Andrew Ravenhill crossed the ball into forward Carlo Basso in front of the net, Basso redirected the ball that was once again swallowed up by Grosey, whose side would lead 1-0 heading into the break.
Kitsap threatened to go up 2-0 in the 50th minute when Catalano went in one-on-one with Watson before his shot sailed harmlessly wide past the net to deny the striker his brace.
The Highlanders received a flurry of corners in the opening ten minutes of the second half, earning four in a row but unable to convert on any of their set pieces.
Victoria looked as if they had the tying goal in the 69th, when midfielder Alex Rowley wired a shot on net. Unfortunately the ball was just inches too far to the left, ringing off the post before being cleared out of play.
In the 78th minute, the Highlanders finally broke through on the score sheet, with Highlander Wes Barrett coming off the bench once again to make an impact late. The former University of Victoria Vike was able to force a through-ball to Victoria’s Blair Sturrock who then deposited a shot to the back of the net before running to the Highlanders’ sideline to celebrate among ecstatic teammates.
The momentum seemed to shift in Victoria’s favour following the goal, with several rushes into the attacking zone in the dying minutes of the half. Despite a late push neither the home side or the Kitsap would be able to break the deadlock, finishing in a 1-1 draw after ninety minutes of play.
With the tie, the Highlanders move to 1-1-0 on the season, retaining their first-place standing in the Northwest Division, while the Pumas move to 0-2-0. The Highlanders return to PDL action in their first road game of the season, May 23 against the Whitecaps U-23. For more information please visitwww.highlandersfc.ca.
KITSAP: Tommy Catalano (17’)
VICTORIA: Blair Sturrock (78’)