Highlanders handed first loss of season by Pumas

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June1,2014(ISN) – BREMERTON – Victoria Highlanders FC played their first of two games in two days, May 31, receiving their first loss of the 2014 Premier Development League season to Kitsap Pumas in Bremerton, Wash. The defeat moves the Highlanders to 2-2-1 in their season, as well as second place in the Northwest Division.

Puma Joaquin Rivas was the only player on the pitch to post a goal, finishing a scramble in front of the Highlanders net for the game-winner. Teammate Matt Grosey picked up the clean sheet in the victory. The Highlanders also had their chances but were unable to find a final touch through ninety minutes.

The first quality chance for Victoria came on eight minutes, as a Tyler Hughes free kick was deflected out to midfielder Alex Rowley, who fed an attempted through-ball to teammate Blair Sturrock, but the ball was a touch too hard for the Scottish native as Kitsap ‘keeper Grosey was able to swallow up the ball.

Save for a hard shot from the top of the 18-yard-box by Thomas Catalano, the opening 15 minutes of play were controlled largely by the Highlanders. They were rewarded with another a second chance to score on 25 minutes, as Victoria forward Cam Hundal was taken down resulting in a Hughes free kick. An arcing shot was parlayed out of the attacking zone by Grosey, finding the feet of Victoria midfielder Alex Rowley who fired a second shot on goal to no avail.

The Pumas were not without their own chances, as Jesus Sanchez showed some nice control in his sides’ attacking third, crossing a ball across the Highlanders goal that no Puma was able to pounce upon. A low rolling shot minutes later from Miguel Gonzalaz forced Highlanders keeper Mitrou to sprawl to his left to stop the shot from rolling by.

In the 39th minute, a scramble in front of the net ended with Rivas deflecting a shot from inside the six-yard box towards the net, eventually being ruled a goal. Confusion arose on the pitch as the goal was not immediately indicated, but after conferring with the linesman, Kitsap was awarded the call, putting the Highlanders down a goal despite a strong first half of play.

The Highlanders continued to apply pressure, with a streaking Andrew Ravenhill launching a cross across the goal mouth that just eluded teammate Carlo Basso. The ensuing corner would not yield the results Victoria would want, as the first half ended in a 1-0 advantage for the Pumas.

The second half opened up with Kitsap applying the pressure in the early minutes, but as play continued, a shift in their attack gave Victoria several quality chances to level the score, including a rush into the attacking zone that ended with Sturrock being taken down high. Fortunately for Kitsap, play continued despite the protest of several Victoria players.

After getting booked for a yellow card in the opening half for taking down Highlanders Hughes, Brodie Steigerwald received a second caution after taking down forward Cam Hundal in the 76th minute. His second yellow put Kitsap down a man with 15 minutes to go.

A man down, Victoria moved into the attacking zone, with Hundal providing some fancy footwork before crossing it in front, but neither teammates Ian Greedy or Tarnvir Bhandal could direct a strike through the Kitsap defence.

After working the ball into the attacking zone in the final minutes of play, Hundal cut to the inside in an attempt to split the Kitsap defenders and was met with a flurry of contact with the ball at his feet. After being taken down at the top of the six-yard-box, the referee ruled play in Kitsap’s favour, erasing any hope of a Highlanders’ penalty kick.

The Pumas would hold on to their 1-0 lead through to the final whistle, handing the Highlanders their first loss of the season while leapfrogging Victoria for first place in the Northwest Division. The Highlanders face a quick turnaround, as they head to Redmond, Wash. for a 12pm match against the Washington Crossfire.