Photo credit: Gord Rufh

VICTORIA, BC – Highlanders FC (1W-0D-4L) welcomed Portland Timbers U-23 (3W-4D-1L) to Centennial Stadium, June 18, dropping a 2-1 decision in their final match at home before heading on the road next weekend to face TSS Rovers.

Midfielder Sho Goto opened scoring in the match for the Highlanders, before Timbers U-23 answered back with a pair of second half goals from Francesco Amorosio and Willie Spur.

It was a strong opening 30 minutes for the Highlanders, who edged their opponents in possession and were rewarded with the matches’ opening chance from recent addition Isky Van Doorne. The Calgary native intercepted a pass up the right wing before sending a low strike across goal to test goalkeeper Jordan Farr for the first time.

Goto’s slight deflection on an Owen Pearce strike from the top of the box was the difference in the opening half, giving the home side a 1-0 advantage in the 32nd minute of play. It was the midfielder’s first goal of the season.

Portland responded well after going down, putting Highlanders ‘keeper Simon Norgrove to work under two minutes after falling behind. Two saves preserved the 1-0 lead, with captain Ryan McCurdy doing well to clear the ball from danger after it appeared destined for the back of the net.

Victoria would hold Timbers U-23 at bay for the remainder of the half, exiting the opening half with a one-goal advantage.

Play had barely gotten underway in the second half when Timbers found their equalizer off an Amorosino header—an inch-perfect redirect from teammate Nate Shultz.

Save for a pair of promising looks in the Highlanders’ attacking third, second half action didn’t pick up until the 68-minute-mark, as a frantic scramble in the Highlanders box. Norgrove was again up for the task once again, before watching the ball get sent high and over the bar.

Veteran Highlander Blair Sturrock looked poised to cause problems after receiving the ball up the wing on 73 minutes,  but a dangerous tackle from defender Bob Groenendijk negated the run, earning a yellow for the Timbers defender and a free kick for Victoria that would fail to convert.

Timbers U-23 put a dagger in the heart of the home side on 87 minutes, as Spur’s shot from just inside the box found its way under sliding defender Stuart Heath and into the bottom right of goal for a late 2-1 advantage.

A late cross into the box from Victoria midfielder Aidan Moore that was redirected just over the bar would be the home sides’ final chance on goal, sending the Timbers to a 2-1 win.

“I think we’re still just not finishing chances that are there for us and we’re asking players to do things that are out of their comfort zone,” said Victoria Highlanders head coach Dave Dew.

“Hopefully now that we’re heading out on the road that will help us out a little bit and help to give us some camaraderie.”

Next up, the Highlanders head on the road to face TSS Rovers on Friday, June 23 at Swangard Stadium. Kick-off in the match is set for 7:00 p.m.