Victoria Highlanders FC (6-3-1) traveled to Marist High School to take on Lane United FC (5-2-4) on Sunday, June 30th. The Highlanders had a solid first half, but Adan Garcia scored early in the second half and Albert Escuin picked up the clean sheet as the home team took the 1-0 decision.
The Highlanders were coming off a 2-0 win over Portland Timbers U23 on Friday, June 28th while Lane United FC were coming off a 3-1 loss to Seattle Sounders U23 on Sunday, June 23rd. This match would be the last match in the three-game series between the clubs in the 2019 USL League Two regular season. Lane United were looking to keep pace with the Highlanders in the Northwest Division.
In the first half, the Victoria side had a new-look backline that featured Jake Ruby, Sean Young, Elyad Shojaei, and Mitch Popadynetz. While the opening moments of the match were a bit sluggish for the away team, the defensive strategy tightened up and the Highlanders controlled possession as the half went on. Victory Shumbusho, coming off a brace against Portland, had a chance in the 13th minute, but Escuin was able to reach out and make the save. Shun Takano found himself with a scoring opportunity in the 20th minute when he stepped up to take a free kick in a prime position, but his shot curled just over the crossbar.
The home team responded with a couple offensive chances of their own, but the Highlanders’ defensive strategy gave them little to no space to get a shot off or take advantage of possession in the box. Shumbusho took advantage of a great long ball but didn’t get full contact with the shot and Escuin came up with the save. After 45 minutes of play, the game remained scoreless.
Lane United FC came out strong in the second half, pushing up the field and crowding the box on set plays and crosses. The first goal of the game came off a corner chance when Nikkye De Point decided to make a pass back rather than a cross into the box. He passed it back to Adan Garcia who held it for a moment and changed the angle of the shot before he fired it into the top right corner of the goal in the 54th minute. Lane United came close two adding to their lead when a shot got through the legs of Simon Norgrove but Jake Ruby hustled back and saved a goal with a well timed block.
The last ten minutes of the match saw the Highlanders throw everything they could towards the home team’s goal. Goteh Ntignee had a great look in the 84th minute but his shot went just wide of the right post. Lane United FC was able to swarm the Highlanders whenever they had possession in the box in the final moments of the match and were able to hold on for the 1-0 win. With the win Lane United claimed top spot in the Northwest Division via head-to-head tie breaker against the Highlanders.
“It was not the result we had hoped for, but there were many positives to take out of this game,” stated Highlanders head coach Thomas Niendorf. “We got stronger as the first half went on, and we had a number of opportunities to score but were unable to take advantage of them. We were hesitant at times with shot opportunities, but the chances were there. We will take the positives from the game and look forward to our next match at home against Vancouver. The playoff race is tight and this division is always a tough one. Points won’t come easy, but this group understands that and knows what we need to do to succeed.”
The Highlanders return to Centennial Stadium on Friday, July 5th for their final regular season home game of the 2019 USL League Two season. They will welcome Vancouver TSS FC Rovers for the second leg of the Juan De Fuca Plate. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.
LUFC: Adan Garcia 53’
VHFC: Victory Shumbusho 70’
LUFC: Brady Graff 18’, Nikkye De Point 85’
Victoria Highlanders FC
Norgrove (GK); Young, Popadynetz (Ando 76’), Ruby, Shojaei, Hill, Cole (Fletcher 71’), Takano (Colley 64’), Ntignee, Davidson, Shumbusho
Lane United FC
Escuin (GK); Romac, De Point, Graff (Valenzuela 78’), Cespo, Garcia, Spurr (Soares 80’), Garcia, Segovia (Diaz 71’), Braithwaite (Kalla 74’), Kimishima (Case 78’)