VICTORIA, BC – Highlanders FC (1W-0D-2L) welcomed Calgary Foothills U-23 (4W-0D-1L) to Centennial Stadium for the first of two weekend Premier Development League (PDL) matches on June 2, putting forth an inspired effort but falling by a 1-0 scoreline.
Calgary’s Ali Musse scored the match’s lone goal, while goalkeeper Dylan Powley earned the clean sheet for the visiting side. Victoria held the edge in chances through 90 minutes of play with a number of quality opportunities in the attacking third, but would come up just short of finding the back of the net.
A strong first half of play for the home side kicked off with a great chance seven minutes in, as a free kick from 30-yards from midfielder Owen Pearce was cleared off the line to keep the game scoreless early.
Pearce forced Powley into his first save of the match five minutes later, after a left-footed strike from the top of 18 yards was stopped in goal by the sprawling ‘keeper.
Both sides exchanged opportunities in their attacking third as the match hit the half-hour mark, as former Highlander Chris Rushworth’s attempt to break in alone on goal was broken up and cleared from danger by defender Stuart Heath. Coming the other way, Highlander Justin Donaldson found himself with a chance of his own from inside 18. The Thompson River University midfielder sent a strike that would go just high.
Arguably Calgary’s most dangerous threat through the opening half of play, Ali Musse found the back of the net deep into stoppage time off a lobbing header to give his side a 1-0 advantage heading into the break.
”Playing against Foothills is like an old fashioned derby,” Highlanders head coach Dave Dew stated. “There was a lot of testosterone and heated battles going on, which I think is good. You want to see that kind of attitude from your players.”
Calgary opened the second half on the front foot, content to sit back and carry the majority of possession for the opening 10-minutes of play.
Midfielder Paddy Nelson then kickstarted a flurry of pressure for the Highlanders on 66 minutes, sending a blast from 20 yards that would go just inches over the bar of Powley. Just minutes later, second-half substitute Aidan Moore timed an interception in Calgary’s zone to perfection, sending a cross immediately thereafter to teammate Eva Batousol. Batousol’s attempt would be swallowed up by Powley.
Highlander head coach Dave Dew made a number of changes as his team continued to search for an equalizing marker, and it nearly paid dividends late in the match. UNBC’s Francesco Bartolillo’s blast from in close was saved well by Powley to preserve his clean sheet.
“I thought the guys played fantastic,” Dew concluded following the match. “We didn’t get the reward that I thought we deserved.”
Victoria would continue to apply pressure but could not solve their opponents, as Foothills would hold their 1-0 lead through to the final whistle to collect three points and maintain their stance atop the Northwest Division.
Both teams will meet again under 48 hours, as they return to Centennial Stadium on Sunday afternoon for the second half of this weekend’s Canadian double-header. Kick-off in the match is set for 2:00 p.m. PST.