Victoria Highlanders FC (1-0-1) welcomed Portland Timbers U23 (0-2-0) to Centennial Stadium, May 19th. It was a cautious game to start, but it was the home side that took the 2-0 win on goals from Victory Shumbusho and Sean Young.
The game started without much in the way of dangerous offensive chances, outside a few early opportunities for the home side, as the Timbers pushed a defensive tempo in the opening stages of the match. Mitchell Popadynetz got the first chance of the game in the 4th minute, getting a shot off just inside the box, but Rogers strong positional play made it a routine save. The home side continued the early pressure as Joshua Banton’s header in the 8th minute sailed just over the bar.
Portland’s first dangerous chance of the game came in the 28th minute off a Jonathan Jimenez shot. Jimenez had a good look as he drove the ball from just inside the box, but Simon Norgrove was able to stretch out and keep the game scoreless.
The later stages of the half saw a player from each team receive a caution from the referee. Shumbusho was given a yellow card in the 34th minute after colliding with the Timbers’ ‘keeper while going for a 50/50 ball. Michael Barrow of Portland received the second caution of the half in the 44th minute for unsporting behaviour.
While it seemed like both teams were destined to head into the half scoreless, the home side was able to capitalize in the added time. Shumbusho drove up the right wing before cutting into the box and letting a shot go that found the inside of the far post, giving the Highlanders the 1-0 lead after 45 minutes.
The momentum from Shumbusho’s goal carried over into the second half as it took the Highlanders only three minutes to add to their lead. In the 48th minute, Sean Young ripped a shot, in stride, from outside the box into the top right corner of the Portland goal.
After a pair of substitutions from the visiting team, the Timbers produced a couple of dangerous offensive chances in the middle stages of the half. The first one came in the 62nd minute as the Timbers’ forward group pushed up the field, but Connor Guilherme with a heads up play in the box was able to get the ball as his positional tackle turned away the chance. Shortly after that, in the 65th minute, Norgrove made a point-blank save off a scramble in front of the goal to keep Portland off the board.
Other than a yellow card given to Christo Michaelson of the Timbers, the rest of the half saw the Highlanders tighten up the midfield and control possession. At the final whistle, the home team held on for the 2-0 win and a big three points in the Northwest Division.
“Very happy with the boys. We addressed a few things from the first game that we wanted to do better. Especially being a bit more decisive in front of the net and capitalizing and taking advantage of our opportunities, making things count,” added Highlanders head coach Thomas Niendorf. “I think the two goals we scored today were first-class quality for this level of play. Being able to, in the second half, hold off a strong opponent and showing good mental strength in order to make sure we are not giving up a goal. Playing a game with a clean sheet is always a confidence builder for the defensive area of our game.”
The Highlanders are back in action on Sunday, May 26th at Centennial Stadium versus Seattle Sounders U23. Kick Off is at 2:00 PM.