Story and Photos by Christian J Stewart (ISN)
July 16, 2014, Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Highlanders hosted their first ever Premier Development League (PDL) playoff game at Royal Athletic Park on Wednesday night and they are probably wishing they hadn’t, as the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps U23, perhaps motivated by Germany’s rout of Brazil in the World Cup, destroyed the Highlanders 7-2 in front of an extremely disappointed crowd of 1,531 at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria.
Vancouver’s Niall Cousins (left) and Victoria’s Gavin Barrett (right) battle for the ball early in the first half (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Whitecaps came out aggressively in the game and seemed to capitalize early on every scoring chance they had, building a 4-0 lead at the half. The Whitecaps also seemed to benefit from some questionable calls, or in some cases, non-calls, most notably on the Whitecaps second goal, when the Vancouver attacker blatantly grabbed the Highlander defender that was checking him, flung him to the ground and then slipped the ball over to an open Brett Levis who deftly placed a shot past Highlander goaltender Elliott Mitrou for the 2-0 lead.
Vancouver’s Brett Levis eludes the tackle from Victoria’s Tarnvir Bhandal. Levis would score the second goal for the Whitecaps (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Victoria coach Steve Simonson was irate after the goal and let the refereeing team know in no uncertain terms what he thought of the call, going on for a number of minutes before the sideline referee finally had to warn him enough was enough.
Victoria head coach Steve Simonson expresses his displeasure with an early non-call that led directly to a Whitecaps goal (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The refereeing issues did not stop there however as a total of seven yellow cards were issued in the match, five to Victoria and some of an extremely qustionable nature, even to this casual soccer observer. A red card was also issued late in the game to Victoria’s Tyler Hughes, adding to the Highlanders frustration.
This was a common scene Wednesday as the head referee booked seven yellow cards – 5 against Victoria – and one red card over the course of the match (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
First half scoring for the Whitecaps went to Cody Cook who launched a nice arcing shot from the top of the 18-yard box in the 6th minute, Levi’s goal which came in the 8th minute, a second goal from Cook in the 18th minute on a penalty kick and the fourth goal from Niall Cousens, with a pretty header, in the 43rd minute.
Victoria goalkeeper Elliott Mitrou was left alone with his thoughts after the Whitecaps scored three times in the first 20 minutes Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Victoria’s best first half chance went to Cam Hundal who broke in all alone late in the half, but typical of how the game was going, pushed his shot wide of the mark.
Victoria’s Cam Hundal would have Vancouver goalkeeper Nolan Wirth at his mercy, but would push the ball wide in this first half scoring chance (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
In the second half, the Highlanders would finally get on the board when Blair Sturrock put the ball in during the 51st minute from an awkward angle after a scramble in the goal mouth.
They would give that back almost immediately however, allowing Vancouver’s speedy Kianz Froese to break in off the wing and put one cleanly past Mitrou for a 5-1 lead.
Vancouver’s Niall Cousens (9) and Victoria’s Gavin Barrett battle for the header in second half action Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Victoria responded with their second goal of the game, as Jordan Hughes wired home a blast in the 54th minute to cut the goal advantage to three.
The Whitecaps would get that back on a free kick in the 70th minute that came following the red card to Tyler Hughes. Froese’s free kick ricocheted off Cousens and through a screen of gold and black for the 6-2 lead.
Kianz Froese’s (19) free kick deflects off Naill Cousens (9) and into the Victoria net giving the Whitecaps a 6-2 lead in the 70th minute Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Froese would then notch his own goal in the 84th minute, completing the scoring in the 7-2 Whitecaps victory.
The win pushed the Whitecaps winning streak to nine games, advancing them to the Western Conference Championships next week.
Vancouver’s Kianz Froese is upended by a tackle from Victoria’s Gavin Barrett in the second half Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The curtains don’t close for the Highlanders just yet, as they welcome former ‘Cap Kenny Miller and Scotland-based Rangers FC on Monday, July 21 at University of Victoria’s Centennial Stadium. Tickets are available at www.selectyourtickets.com or by calling 250-590-8432. For more information, please visit www.highlandersfc.ca.
Vancouver’s Marlon Ramirez (left) and Victoria’s Cam Hundal (centre) and Andrew Ravenhill (right) battle for the ball in second half action Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
VHFC: Sturrock (51′), J.Hughes (54′)
VWFC: Froese (2 – 53′, 85′), Cook (2 – 6′, 18′), Cousens (2 – 43′, 72′), Levis (8′)
FINAL MATCH STATISTICS
08.16.2014: Royal Athletic Park— 7:00 p.m.
Attendance: – 1531
Victoria Highlanders 2 – Whitecaps 7
VHFC Starting XI: Mitrou (GK), An. Ravenhill, T.Hughes, G.Barrett, Brown (Ad. Ravenhill), Bhandal (W.Barrett 45′), Rowley (deGraaf 84′), Hundal Sturrock, Basso, (J.Hughes 45′) Stokes (Greedy 83′)
Coach: Steve Simonson
VWFC Starting XI: Wirth (GK), Serban, Farahani, Farmer (Prasad 76′), O’Neil, Lakhan (Piraux 45′), Froese, Stewart, Cook (Musse 58′), Levis (Ramirez 45′), Cousens
Coach: Niall Thompson
VHFC – Mitrou (17′), Basso (38′), G.Barrett (45+’), T.Hughes (45’+), Rowley (79′)
VWFC – Lakhan (23′), Levis (40′)
VHFC – T.Hughes (70′)
VWFC – None