Funded entirely by supporter donations, the Plate, inspired by the famous Cascadia and Voyageurs Cups, was intended to honour and acknowledge the champion British Columbia club in the highest-level soccer league played in multiple British Columbia cities, the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League (USL PDL). From its inception, the Juan de Fuca Plate was not tied to any specific league or teams: it is meant to be awarded to the strongest British Columbia team against its professional, provincial rivals.
The first match in the history of the Juan de Fuca Plate took place on May 13, 2012 at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria, British Columbia between the Victoria Highlanders and the Vancouver Whitecaps U-23. Vancouver forward Long Tan scored the first goal in Juan de Fuca Plate history in the 40th minute on an assist from British Columbia native Carlos Marquez. The first British Columbian to score in the Juan de Fuca Plate did so in the second game on May 23, 2012, when Vancouver native Ben Fisk scored in the 31st minute for the Whitecaps against the Fraser Valley Mariners. The Plate itself made its first appearance July 8, 2012 in the match between the Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 and the Victoria Highlanders.
In the first year of the competition 3,514 fans visited five stadiums over the course of nine matches to watch Fraser Valley, Victoria, and Vancouver do battle for the Plate. When the Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 finally stood victorious at Swangard Stadium on July 11, 2012 before 203 fans, it was at the end of a tournament that saw 29 goals from 17 players, countless brilliant saves from six talented young Canadian goalkeepers, and a tournament that went down to the last minute.
The second year of the Juan de Fuca Plate was equally successful despite losing the Fraser Valley Mariners. Once again the Vancouver Whitecaps and Victoria Highlanders took each other to the last minute before Vancouver won in a competition marked by the superb play of British Columbian products Jordie Hughes, Michael Winter, and Niall Cousens as well as other western Canadians such as Brett Levis and Marco Carducci. It also saw the largest single-game attendance in Juan de Fuca Plate history, when 2,044 fans packed Royal Athletic Park to watch Victoria host Vancouver. With Vancouver's repeat victory Gagandeep Dosanjh, James Farenhorst, Cam Hundal, and Bobby Jhutty became the first two-time winners of the Juan de Fuca Plate.
In the Plate's third season Victoria finally claimed the crown after two years of heartbreak, defeating the Whitecaps U-23s 8-6 in a two-legged aggregate series. Once again new names etched themselves on Juan de Fuca Plate history, with Carlo Basso, Chris Serban, Wesley Barrett, and Cody Cook drawing notice for all the right reasons. Cam Hundal, now with Victoria, became the first three-time winner of the Juan de Fuca Plate.
Alas, the Victoria Highlanders folded at the end of the 2014 PDL season, while the Whitecaps removed their entry from USL PDL. The Juan de Fuca Plate therefore went into abeyyance, though the Highlanders slowly came back to life under new ownership: first playing in the Pacific Coast League in 2015, then returning to USL PDL in 2016. One team was back, but they had nobody to play until 2017, when TSS FC Rovers out of Burnaby joined the league and the Plate resumed. After Victoria made a long-overdue title defense in 2017, the Rovers won their first ever Plate in 2018.
Throughout the first five Juan de Fuca Plates fans have enjoyed not only excellent soccer but an early look at future pro prospects. Every team to participate in the Plate, from Fraser Valley to TSS, has produced at least one future professional. Former Plate participants Long Tan (China), Matt Polster (United States), Nick Prasad (Fiji), Caleb Clarke, Ben Fisk, Kianz Froese, Ben McKendry, and Sean Melvin (Canada) have won senior international caps.
5th Juan de Fuca Plate (2018 USL PDL Season)
The 2018 Juan de Fuca Plate turned on one moment. With an hour gone in the Plate's first match, the Victoria Highlanders and TSS FC Rovers were tied 1-1 in Victoria, and the Highlanders had a corner. Victoria's Chris Rushworth was getting into it with Rovers goalkeeper Mario Gerges; Rushworth bumped Gerges, Gerges fell theatrically, the referee kept his cards in his pockets but more than once advised Rushworth to cut it out. Frustration was building, tempers were high, and as the Rovers cleared the corner Rushworth, accidentally or otherwise, struck Eric de Graaf in the face. The referee showed Rushworth a red card, and what had been a sloppy but even and entertaining game turned decisively TSS's way. Tommy Gardner scored a long-range goal that he never would have had a chance at if the Highlanders had eleven men on the field, giving TSS a 3-2 win and their first ever road win in USL PDL, never mind the Juan de Fuca Plate.
It was the difference. A week later, back in Burnaby, the Rovers never gave Victoria more than a sniff. Zach Verhoven, the electric if mercurial Rovers winger, showed Victoria his best and despite Callum Montgomery's consolation goal the Highlanders were put away early. In more ways than one: TSS's 3-2 win in the first leg and 2-1 win in the second meant that the third match would be a dead rubber, the Plate already decided. For the first time ever a team celebrated victory with a game in hand, as the TSS FC Rovers waved the Juan de Fuca Plate through a fog of supporter-generated smoke, posing, congratulating each other, and admiring the first piece of silverware in club history. Aidan Moore, who had been a 2017 Victoria Highlander, joined the two-time champions club, while Victoria's Cam Hundal, the only man to win three Plates, for the first time ever saw his opponent holding the trophy.
But there was still a third game to be played, and on June 29 Victoria got a measure of revenge. In a cagey game the Highlanders and Rovers traded half-chances, but with the evening growing late, first-leg goat Rushworth made good, causing trouble in the Rovers' area and drawing a penalty. Callum Montgomery put it away and Victoria grabbed the 1-0 win, all-but-ending TSS's USL PDL playoff chances and saving themselves from a whitewash they'd never have deserved.
|Champion||TSS FC Rovers||Leading Scorer||Callum Montgomery (VIC)|
|Captain||Nick Soolsma||and Zach Verhoven (TSS): 2|
|Head Coach||Will Cromack||Most Assists||Daniel Sagno (TSS): 2|
|Most Clean Sheets||Nolan Wirth (VIC): 1|
|TSS FC Rovers||3||2||0||1||6||5||4|
4th Juan de Fuca Plate (2017 USL PDL Season)
After the 2014 USL PDL season, the Juan de Fuca Plate seemed to be over for good. The Vancouver Whitecaps announced the end of their long-running PDL team, which had become part-reserve team, part-time server for CIS players and Residency alumni, and had in recent years graduated only Brett Levis to a first-team contract. Deprived of their only local rival, with attendance fluctuating, a lack of investment, and a baseball team denying them prime dates at Royal Athletic Park, the Victoria Highlanders announced soon after that they would fold. In a moment British Columbia went from two PDL teams to zero.
But history favours the Plate. The Highlanders, under a new ownership group of alumni and local soccer people, played 2015 in the Pacific Coast Soccer League, and then in 2016 made their triumphant return to PDL. They held the Plate uncontested, for lack of opposition, but for the summer of 2017 the TSS soccer academy, based out of Richmond, bought the old Washington Crossfire franchise and brought PDL back to Burnaby's Swangard Stadium.
It was a new look to the Plate in more ways than one. When the Highlanders and Rovers kicked off June 23 at Swangard only one player from either team, Victoria's Blair Sturrock, had ever played for the Plate before. Maybe that experience told, as Victoria controlled the play and deserved a 1-0 away win on a late Sho Goto winner.
But two days later fans saw another side of the Rovers, as the home team wore road black, loitered in the first half, and in the second seized every chance when Victoria didn't, grabbing a 3-1 win that gave TSS the goal difference advantage.
The series went back to Victoria July 9, with the Highlanders down a goal, tired from a mid-week game, and without starting goalkeeper Simon Norgrove. Under the circumstances their performance was sublime: they stood dominant, giving their best performance of the year before their best crowd of the year, with Northern Irishman Stuart Heath and Vancouver Island league legend Paddy Nelson striking in a 2-0 win and Ty Venhola marking his PDL debut with a clean sheet. The Victoria Highlanders had waited a long, long time to defend their first Juan de Fuca Plate, but boy did they ever. Sturrock became the latest two-time Juan de Fuca Plate champion.
|Champion||Victoria Highlanders FC||Leading Scorer||Sho Goto (VIC) and|
|Captain||Ryan McCurdy||Matteo Polisi (TSS): 2|
|Head Coach||Dave Dew||Most Assists||Sho Goto (VIC): 2|
|Most Clean Sheets||Simon Norgrove (VIC) and|
|Ty Venhola (VIC): 1|
|Victoria Highlanders FC||3||2||0||1||6||4||3|
|TSS FC Rovers||3||1||0||2||3||3||4|
3rd Juan de Fuca Plate (2014 USL PDL Season)
In 2014, the Vancouver Whitecaps U-23s and Victoria Highlanders would play a single, two-leg home-and-home series for the Juan de Fuca Plate, with both matches taking place in the first month of the PDL season. The classic cup format promised another season of excitement. Even player transactions had Plate ramifications: Victoria native and ex-Whitecaps U-23 star Cam Hundal had moved to his hometown Highlanders, joining former Whitecaps Residency midfielder Alex Rowley to reinforce a team that had come within an inch of glory in the 2013 Plate. Going the other way, 2013 Highlanders standout Brett Levis was now with the Whitecaps U-23s after a trial with the MLS squad late in the year.
The Plate kicked off May 4 at Victoria's Royal Athletic Park, where 1,412 braved unpredictable weather to see their hometown heroes grab a controversial victory. A rough, back-and-forth game saw the Whitecaps U-23s take two leads only to be almost immediately pegged back by the Highlanders. In the second minute of added time, Whitecaps goalkeeper (and Vancouver Island native) Nolan Wirth gave away a controversial penalty to Victoria's Carlo Basso. Riley O'Neill converted, and Victoria took the first leg edge 3-2. But Vancouver would have the hammer in the second leg, playing in the intimidating concrete confines of UBC Thunderbird Stadium where they had snatched the Plate from Victoria in 2013.
The rematch May 23 made an immediate mockery of home-field advantage. Victoria had a 3-0 lead nine minutes in, 6-2 on aggregate, as the Whitecaps U-23s seemed to collapse utterly. It looked like we were in for a rare Juan de Fuca Plate whitewash, but whether Victoria (who had a big league game the next day) took their feet off the gas or Vancouver had too much guts to give up, the debacle gradually turned into a soccer game. The Whitecaps got one back, conceded again, and over the last hour clawed back from 4-1 down to a 4-4 tie. They needed a two-goal win to take the Plate but they were going for it until, on 89', Blair Sturrock scored the goal he failed to get at UBC last season and guaranteed Victoria their first Juan de Fuca Plate with an 8-6 aggregate victory.
|Champion||Victoria Highlanders FC||Leading Scorer||Carlo Basso (VIC): 3|
|Captain||Tyler Hughes||Most Assists||Carlo Basso (VIC),|
|Head Coach||Steve Simonson||Reynold Stewart (VAN), and|
|Cam Stokes (VIC): 2|
|Most Clean Sheets||none|
|Sunday, May 4, 2014||Victoria Highlanders FC||3||Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23||2||Royal Athletic Park, Victoria|
|Basso 34', W. Barrett 84', O'Neill 90'||Cook 29', Musse 82'|
|Friday, May 23, 2014||Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23||4||Victoria Highlanders FC||5||Thunderbird Stadium, University Endowment Lands|
|Froese 20', Stewart 39', Cousens 49' 72'||Stokes 4', Ashlee 7', Basso 9' 34', Sturrock 89'|
|Victoria Highlanders FC win Juan de Fuca Plate 8-6 on aggregate|
2nd Juan de Fuca Plate (2013 USL PDL Season)
The departure of the Fraser Valley Mariners from the USL PDL after the 2012 season reduced the second Juan de Fuca Plate to two teams: the Victoria Highlanders and the Vancouver Whitecaps U-23s. However, anticipation for the derby remained high. The Highlanders were assembling maybe the strongest team in their history, under former Whitecaps staff coach Steve Simonson, while Vancouver's 2013 roster included 2011 PDL captain Derrick Bassi, former Czech professional Niall Cousens, and a handful of other names well-known in Lower Mainland soccer.
The 2013 Juan de Fuca Plate kicked off May 17 at the Whitecaps' new home at Thunderbird Stadium. Despite high expectations from the talented Whitecaps it was Victoria who shocked the Vancouver home crowd, playing a dominant second half and earning a fully deserved 3-2 road victory. But two weeks later the Whitecaps got revenge: on May 31 Vancouver went to Royal Athletic Park and took a stunning 5-3 win in what was called one of the best games of the season.
The two-goal win meant Vancouver would have the advantage on goal differential heading into the last game. The finale was almost a month later at Thunderbird Stadium, and on June 28 Vancouver hosted Victoria with everything on the line. Not just the Plate itself, but the game would be key for both teams' USL PDL playoff aspirations.
Former Highlander Sasa Plavsic scored the opening goal for the Whitecaps U-23s, but Victoria was the better team. Brett Levis, continuing a spectacular rookie season, scored the equalizer late in the first half, but in spite of a red card to Vancouver's Niall Cousens and repeated attacks from the Highlanders the score remained 1-1. With time running out Vancouver goalkeeper Marco Carducci made a remarkable double save off Jordie Hughes and Blair Sturrock, sealing the second Juan de Fuca Plate for the Vancouver Whitecaps U-23s in spectacular fashion.
|Champion||Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23||Leading Scorer||Niall Cousens (VAN) and
Jordie Hughes (VIC): 4
|Captain||Derrick Bassi||Most Assists||Michael Winter (VAN): 2|
|Head Coach||Stuart Neely||Most Clean Sheets||none|
|Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23||3||1||1||1||4||8||7|
|Victoria Highlanders FC||3||1||1||1||4||7||8|
|Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 win Juan de Fuca Plate over Victoria Highlanders FC on goal differential (+1)|
Inaugural Juan de Fuca Plate (2012 USL PDL Season)
The first ever Juan de Fuca Plate began on May 13, 2012 at Royal Athletic Park when the Victoria Highlanders and Vancouver Whitecaps U-23 renewed acquaintances in the Salish Sea Derby. The plate itself was far from ready, but the competition was still hot, as the Highlanders and Whitecaps battled to a 1-1 draw in front of 1,172 fans including a sizeable contingent of traveling Vancouver Southsiders. Vancouver's Long Tan became the answer to the trivia question in the 40th minute when he scored the first goal in Juan de Fuca Plate history, while Yellowknife's Craig Gorman replied for Victoria minutes later.
From the start, Victoria and Vancouver established themselves as the class of the 2012 competition as the Fraser Valley Mariners suffered through a catastrophic season in spite of a promising 2011. Both Vancouver and Victoria beat Fraser Valley by identical 4-0 scores at home, while the Mariners improved to merely suffer a 2-0 loss to Victoria at Abbotsford's Bateman Park on June 3. Another 4-0 loss at home to Vancouver followed, and it wasn't until July that Fraser Valley was able to give one of their rivals a fright when they dragged Victoria through 90 minutes of scoreless soccer before losing a heartbreaker in stoppage time on a goal from former Mariners star Sasa Plavsic.
In the key Victoria - Vancouver rematch at Royal Athletic Park on June 9, the Whitecaps U-23s emerged with an essential 4-2 win that featured four goals in the last twenty minutes, three from Vancouver: Jared Stephens scored a stoppage-time marker to pull Victoria within 3-2 but, with the game essentially over, 16-year-old Kianz Froese capitalized on a lapse in the Highlanders defense to score Vancouver's fourth goal.
The third match between Victoria and Vancouver at Richmond's Minoru Park on July 8 saw the first appearance of the Juan de Fuca Plate, as the Whitecaps U-23 would have clinched the title with a win or a draw. But Victoria did not go gently into that good night: Ash Burbeary scored a brace and would have had a hat trick but for the crossbar, and while University of Victoria star Cam Hundal responded for the Whitecaps it wasn't enough to prevent a 2-1 Victoria win. The Whitecaps had to beat Fraser Valley to win the Plate; any other result and Victoria would be the first champions.
In the final game, Fraser Valley brought their best form of the season to Vancouver's spiritual home of Swangard Stadium. For the first time in the Juan de Fuca Plate Fraser Valley actually took a 1-0 lead through Justin Isidro, holding it through the eighty minute mark and raising the hopes of the traveling Victoria contingent. But just as the Highlanders faithful had one hand on the trophy Vancouver fought back, with Hundal and Whitecaps U-23 captain Gagandeep Dosanjh scoring within three minutes of each other to hand Vancouver a 2-1 victory and, after a tremendous fight, the Juan de Fuca Plate.
|Champion||Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23||Leading Scorer||Craig Gorman (VIC): 4|
|Captain||Gagandeep Dosanjh||Most Assists||Jordie Hughes (VIC): 3|
|Head Coach||Craig Dalrymple||Most Clean Sheets||Elliott Mitrou (VIC): 3|
|Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23||6||4||1||1||13||16||6|
|Victoria Highlanders FC||6||4||1||1||13||12||6|
|Fraser Valley Mariners FC||6||0||0||6||0||1||17|
|Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 win Juan de Fuca Plate over Victoria Highlanders FC on goal differential between tied teams (+1)|