June 3,2014(ISN) – VICTORIA – After dropping consecutive losses for the first time this season, Victoria Highlanders FC (2-2-2) return to Royal Athletic Park to host the Portland Timbers U-23 (1-2-2), June 7 at 7pm. Victoria will aim for a return to the top of the table in the Premier Development League’s Northwest Division, with Saturday’s match having large implications on division standings as the race for first-place heats up.
Last weekend Victoria headed out on the road with an opportunity to pull ahead in the division as they faced PDL expansion cousins Kitsap Pumas and Washington Crossfire. Despite dictating large portions of both matches, Victoria was unable to put any finish on their chances through either game, falling 1-0 and 2-0 in back-to-back matches and allowing the Pumas to leapfrog them for first place overall in the division.
Offensively, striker Carlo Basso leads the Highlanders with three goals and two assists through six games this season, while veteran Blair Sturrock has also made an impact, posting late goals against both the Whitecaps and Crossfire. The defensive tandem of captain Tyler Hughes and Ryan Ashlee have once again provided head coach Steve Simonson with reliable performances on the back end, with both playing every minute of the season so far. Goalkeeping duties have been split evenly between Highlanders Elliot Mitrou and Brandon Watson, with each starting three games apiece. Reinforcements are also on the way for Victoria, with midfielder Manny Gomez returning to training and likely available for selection in the near future.
The sixth-place Portland Timbers U-23 will be making a northwest tour over the weekend, facing the 0-3-3 Whitecaps on Friday, June 6 before making the trip to the island to face the Highlanders the following night in Victoria. Portland has put up five goals this season, with forward Kharlton Belmar and midfielder Fatai Alashe posting two goals apiece. Goalkeepers Justin Luthy and Brendan Moore have also shared the duties in net, with Moore capturing the Timbers’ lone victory this season.
Saturday’s match will be the second part of a double-header afternoon for the Highlanders organization. The match will be preceded at 4pm with the Peninsula Co-op Highlanders women taking on Fraser Valley Action in their 2014 Pacific Coast Soccer League season home opener. Kick-off for the men’s team is set for 7pm.