Victoria Highlanders FC (4-1-1) welcomed Portland Timbers U23 (1-6-2) to Centennial Stadium, June 16th. The Highlanders, coming off a 1-0 road win against Vancouver TSS FC Rovers, were playing the first of three straight home games. The home side scored a season-high four goals in the first half on their way to a 6-0 victory over the Portland side.
The Victoria side started the game with a new look up front with Victory Shumbusho, Daniel Davidson, and Goteh Ntignee, in his first start of the year, leading the offensive attack in the first half. After Ntignee was taken down in the box, the Highlanders were awarded a penalty in the 9th minute. Shumbusho, looking to score on a penalty for the second straight game, fired a shot that was stopped by a diving Trevor Wilson before Davidson cleaned up the rebound for his first goal of the season in the 10th minute. The road team pushed back in the ensuing 15 minutes with a counterattack from a backline that was able to hold off the Highlanders forwards until the 35th minute.
Connor Guilherme’s cross from the right side found Davidson at the top of the box, where the former Rover unleashed a rocket of a one-touch volley that found its way into the back of the net, securing the brace in the 35th minute. The Highlanders weren’t done there as Davidson’s long ball split the defenders and found a wide open Ntignee. Staying just onside, the 16-year-old forward fired the ball between the goalkeeper’s legs in the 38th minute to give the home side a 3-0 lead. Timbers U23 defender was shown a red card after the goal and suddenly the Timbers were down to ten men. Victoria continued to push the offensive tempo as Shumbusho grabbed a turnover, threaded a terrific pass through the defense, and found a wide open Shun Takano in front. Takano made no mistake with his opportunity and fired a shot through the goalkeeper’s legs that found the inside of the far post in the 41st minute of play.
After 45 minutes of play, the Highlanders held a 4-0 lead with all four goals coming from players scoring for the first time this season.
Right before halftime, Portland made a pair of substitutions, including bringing in leading goal scorer Bertrand Fourrier to reenergize the team. While Fourrier added a spark to the Timbers offense, producing a couple great looks, the Highlanders took advantage of having an extra player on the field.
Shumbusho fought off two defenders to the left of the goal before he slid the ball back to an open Ntignee. The Jackson Cup MVP cut across in front of the defender before firing a quick shot past the Timbers’ goalkeeper in the 57th minute. It was the second recorded brace of the game for a Highlanders’ player and gave the home side a 5-0 lead. Fourrier came close to getting the away side on the board in the middle portion of the half, but Norgrove and the Highlanders’ backline were able to turn aside the dangerous offensive chance.
In the 70th minute, Sam Fletcher fired a low cross into the box that Elyad Shojaei redirected into the top corner of the net for his second goal of the season. The Highlanders made a pair of substitutions in the latter stages of the half to keep the defense fresh and it showed as they were able to hold down the fort and take the 6-0 win. Simon Norgrove picked up his second clean sheet of the season while making three saves.
“We had a new look for the team today, with three players starting for the first time and bringing in two young players in Goteh and Keenen,” stated Highlanders head coach Thomas Niendorf. “We had a good training week and we were prepared for it. We wanted to work on our defensive approach to press a little bit higher and to close down the space. They’re a very good team technically, and very structured in their game. We also wanted to capitalize on our chances offensively and working on the spirit and mentality of us as a team always carries us forward. It was a good game to remind everyone that everything starts on putting emphasis on teamwork. We had some great performances from the boys today, and they came together as a team. We want players to have confidence and to not be afraid to stand up for themselves. It was a good win at home, and we played the way we knew we could.”
The Highlanders are back in action on Friday, June 21st at Centennial Stadium for the first game of a weekend double header against defending USL League Two champs Calgary Foothills FC. Kickoff is set for 7:15 p.m. For tickets and more information, please visit www.highlandersfc.ca.
Rise & Grind Player of the Match
VHFC: Daniel Davidson 10’, Daniel Davidson 35’ (Guilherme), Goteh Ntignee 38’ (Davidson), Shun Takano 41’ (Shumbusho), Goteh Ntignee 57’ (Shumbusho), Elyad Shojaei 70’ (Fletcher)
VHFC: Joshua Banton 24’, Elyad Shojaei 70’
POR: Simon Fitch 20’, Terrell Lowe 37’, Christo Michaelson 45’
POR: Gerardo Lopez 37’
Victoria Highlanders FC
Norgrove (GK); Banton (Adib 71’), Guilherme, Colley, Shojaei (Rigg 79’), Young (Fletcher 62’), Hill, Takano (Popadynetz 62’), Shumbusho, Davidson (Ando 71’), Ntignee
Portland Timbers U23
Wilson (GK); Lopez, Mecham (Avendano 75’), Fitch (Mello-Bastida 84’), Lowe, Hubenya, Michaelson (Zhividze 45’), Prsa (Fourrier 45’), Mehlich, Corner (Roscoe 43’), Rudel (Hauret 62’)
REF: Brett Hartman
AR1: Evan Fryer
AR2: David Schmidt-Schweda
4th Official: Scot Whiteley