Highlanders Wrap Up 2019 USL League Two Season In Calgary

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(Photo Credit: John Richardson)

Victoria Highlanders FC (6-7-1) wrapped up their 2019 USL League Two season with the finale of their weekend series against Calgary Foothills FC (9-3-2) on Sunday, July 14th at Mount Royal University. Two goals in the second half courtesy Willy Akio and Tofa Fakunle helped the Foothills walk away with the 3-0 win. Benjamin Jackson recorded the clean sheet while Aribim Pepple opened the scoring in the first half.

Going into the match, Foothills FC were looking for a win or a draw to clinch their second straight USL League Two Northwest Division title. With a Highlanders win and a Sounders win, Seattle would have captured the Northwest Division title.

The early stages of the match saw both teams struggle to find an offensive rhythm. Possession in the midfield was contested constantly but neither team was able to set the tone early on. The first real chance of the game came in the 12th minute when the Foothills received a free kick just outside the box, but the ensuing kick was blocked by the wall of Highlanders’ defenders. It wasn’t until the 20th minute that the game saw its first real scoring chance, a chance that Calgary took advantage of. Aribim Pepple found himself behind the defence before sliding it into the back of the net for the 1-0 lead.

The Highlanders bounced back with strong possession in the last ten minutes of the half, creating opportunities in the attacking third and distributing the ball from the backline through the midfield. While they created a couple dangerous chances, the Highlanders were unable to hit the score sheet and the Foothills led 1-0 at halftime.

With a chance to play spoiler, the Highlanders came out of halftime with more jump and energy in their play. Goteh Ntignee fought off his defenders to create a prime scoring opportunity, but his shot sailed over the crossbar. After the miss, Calgary worked the ball up the field before Tofa Fakunle fired it into the back of the net for a 2-0 Foothills FC lead in the 53rd minute.

Willy Akio stretched it to a 3-0 lead in the 64th minute as his shot found the inside of the far post. The next ten minutes saw choppy play in the midfield as both teams really battled for possession. Victoria finished the second half much like the first, creating opportunities in the attacking third via strong ball movement up the field. While the opportunities were there, the Highlanders tried one too many passes at times which the Foothills would swarm. As the final whistle sounded Calgary Foothills FC walked away with the 3-0 win and their second straight Northwest Division title.

“This was a tough way to end the season. I don’t believe the score was indicative of the actual run of play between the teams or told the whole story,” stated Highlanders head coach Thomas Niendorf. “We made a couple of mistakes and they ended up in the back of our net. Calgary is clinical at taking advantage of mistakes and creating opportunities out of them.  While the season didn’t end as we had hoped, I’m proud of the boys and this group of players. We were banged up and shorthanded, but they battled it out for the weekend and the season. The league and our program is all about development and we believe that this group of players will take the right things from the season as they move forward.”

Scoring Summary
VHFC: None
CGY: Aribim Pepple 20’, Tofa Fakunle 53’, Willy Akio 64’

Cautions
VHFC: Goteh Ntignee 6’, Daniel Davidson 66’
CGY: Drake Rendle 53’, Tofa Fakunle 61’

Ejections
VHFC: None
CGY: None

Victoria Highlanders FC
Norgrove (GK); Banton, Colley, Ruby, Shojaei, Young, Davidson, Cole (Rigg 70’), Popadynetz, Ando, Ntignee