Highlanders prepare to host Sounders as playoff race intensifies
VICTORIA – Victoria Highlanders FC will play host to Seattle Sounders U-23 for the first of two matches over the next three weeks between the two clubs. Sounders will be looking to push up the Premier Development League’s Northwest Division standings while Victoria will aim to maintain their position among the top-three as the regular season comes to a close.
Victoria returned Monday from their longest road trip of the season, a four-day venture down to Oregon that saw last season’s Western Conference champions falling 3-1 to Portland Timbers U-23 before routing expansion side Lane United 7-0 in Eugene, Ore. Highlanders Riley O’Neill and teammate Cameron Stokes each collected two goals over the weekend, while goalkeepers Brandon Watson and Elliot Mitrou split duties in net in back-to-back games.
The eight-goal weekend has positioned the Highlanders as the second-highest scoring team in the league with 25 goals, two shy of FC Tuscon’s 27. Strikers Carlo Basso and Blair Sturrock lead Victoria with four goals apiece, while Cam Hundal, Stokes and O’Neill have each posted three goals on the season. Watson and Mitrou have split duties between the woodwork all season, with Watson in net to record Victoria’s most recent victory and clean sheet of the season in the 7-0 win.
Seattle’s sits just two points outside of the division’s top-3 playoff positions with two games in hand on the Highlanders, Kitsap Pumas and the resurgent Whitecaps U-23. It has been an inconsistent season for the MLS-affiliate club, who have garnered mixed results on the pitch with a draw, loss and clean sheet over the past two weeks of play.
Luis Estevez leads Sounders U-23 with four goals in six games of play this season, while teammates Mohammad Dumbuya and Nikolaj Hansen round out the top-3 scoring on the team this season with three and two goals apiece, respectively. The Sounders also feature Stanford sophomore and United States U-20 and U-21 team member Jordan Morris. Morris gained national attention after posting 27 goals in 28 matches in the Sounders Academy, earning U-17/U-18 US Soccer Development Academy Player of the Year in 2013.
The Highlanders and Sounders U-23 match is set to kick-off at 7:00 p.m., June 28 at Royal Athletic Park. It is the second-to-last PDL regular season home game for Victoria, who will also hold exhibition matches against FC Edmonton and Glasgow Rangers FC on July 2nd and July 21st, respectively. For tickets and more information on all the Highlanders matches, please visit www.highlandersfc.ca.