SUMNER, WASHINGTON – Victoria Highlanders FC (6-5-1) traveled to Sunset Stadium to take on Seattle Sounders U23 (6-3-3) on Sunday, July 7th. Both teams traded goals in the first half as Noe Meza opened the scoring for Seattle while Caleb Clarke responded for Victoria, and Pablo De Castro scored the eventual game winner early in the second half to give the Sounders a 2-1 win.
The Highlanders were coming off a 3-2 loss to Vancouver TSS FC Rovers on Friday, July 5th while Seattle was coming off a 3-1 win against the Rovers. Both teams were looking to move up the Northwest Division table with a win.
Seattle opened the scoring in the 4th minute when Miles Robinson made a cutback pass to Noe Meza who finished it off for the early 1-0 lead. The Sounders came close to adding to their lead in the 9th minute but Jake Ruby came up with a well-timed block to turn away the scoring opportunity. The early stages of the half saw the Sounders close the Highlanders passing lanes and clog up the midfield.
Victoria fought for the tying goal and were eventually rewarded in the 24th minute. After a great ball by Daniel Davidson, the newly added Caleb Clarke lobbed the ball over Sounders’ goalkeeper Marvin Kasim and into the back of the net to tie the game at one. Clarke came within inches of scoring his second goal of the game in the 36th minute, but Kasim came up with a big point blank save to keep the game tied. With the half almost over, the Sounders were given a free kick in a prime position, but Meza’s shot rang off the crossbar before Simon Norgrove covered the rebound. The game remained tied at one after 45 minutes of play.
The Sounders started the second half just as they started the first, with a goal in the early minutes. Emmanuel Kouma played a through ball between the Highlanders’ defenders that found Pablo De Castro who made no mistake and fired it past Norgrove for the 2-1 lead in the 51st minute. Goteh Ntignee created a pair of promising rushes in the attacking third, but both shots sailed just wide of the goal.
Norgrove came up with a huge stop in the 76th minute when he turned aside a point-blank shot of his own to keep the Highlanders within a goal. Victoria maintained possession in the midfield in the later stages of the second half, but the Seattle backline did a good job of turning away any dangerous chances. The Highlanders pushed up the field for the tying goal in the dying moments, continuously sending numbers into the attacking third, but Kasim and the Sounders were able to hang on and take the 2-1 win.
“This was a tough one. There were certainly aspects to our game that worked, and worked well, but overall it just didn’t come together,” stated Highlanders head coach Thomas Niendorf. “I thought our movement and passing in the midfield was one of our strengths, but once we got into the attacking third, we were a bit unpredictable. We had a couple of opportunities that would have swung the momentum of the match, but we were unable to capitalize on them. We need to regroup now and focus on the task at hand going forward, our weekend series against the Foothills in Calgary. If we take advantage of our opportunities and focus on the way we know we can play, we will be successful. The boys understand what needs to be done and we will be extremely motivated to keep the playoff drive going.”
Victoria Highlanders are back in action on Friday, July 12th when they travel to Calgary to take on Foothills FC in the first game of a two-game weekend series. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. MT. The second game of the weekend series is set for a 2:00 p.m. MT kickoff on Sunday, July 14th.
VHFC: Caleb Clarke 24’
SEA: Noe Meza 4’, Pablo DeCastro 51’
VHFC: Goteh Ntignee 39’, Sean Young 54’
SEA: James Filerman 26’, Pablo De Castro 42’, Nathan Dossantos 80’, Dylan Teves 83’
Victoria Highlanders FC
Norgrove (GK); Banton, Adib, Ruby, Shojaei, Young, Davidson, Cole (Takano 63’), Popadynetz (Colley 80’), Clarke, Ntignee
Seattle Sounders U23
Kasim (GK); Filerman, Bucks, Bauer, Kouma, Dossantos (Marcey 86’), Robinson, Carnefix, Adams (Jamett 75’), Meza (Teves 60’), De Castro (Criollo 88’)
REF: Benjamin Oakley
AR #1: Julian Tafolla-Cisneros
AR #2: Sya Magee
Fourth Official: Hunter Zachweisa