May 17, 2013: Victoria Highlanders @ Vancouver Whitecaps U-23

Whitecaps U-23 Victoria
1 GK Simon Thomas 29 GK Elliott Mitrou
6 DF Adam Clement out 81' 4 DF Gavin Barrett
16 DF Michael Winter 5 DF Ryan Ashlee
5 DF Derrick Bassi 2 DF Kalem Scott
3 DF Ethen Sampson out 85' 13 DF Tyler Hughes
23 MF Cam Hundal 10 MF Riley O'Neill goal 53'
20 MF Aminu Abdallah 14 MF Matt Polster
10 MF Bobby Jhutty 22 MF Tarnvir Bhandal
7 MF Harry Lakhan 11 MF Craig Gorman
12 FW Sasa Plavsic out 65' 17 FW Jordie Hughes goal 50' 81'
17 FW Niall Cousens goal 52' 87' 16 FW Brett Levis out 89'
21 FW Marco Visintin in 65' 24 MF Gareth Langdon in 89'
2 DF Colton O'Neill in 81'
4 DF James Farenhorst in 85'

If anybody thought the big MLS names of the Vancouver Whitecaps U-23s would stroll to their second consecutive Juan de Fuca Plate, the first match must have changed their minds.

Beneath a heavy sky that constantly threatened rain, the Whitecaps U-23s and the Victoria Highlanders met at Thunderbird Stadium on the University of British Columbia to renew acquaintances before a Friday evening crowd of just over 100 that included a few travelling Lake Side Buoys and, of all people, a handful of Timbers Army, up from Portland for the Whitecaps - Timbers first team game on Saturday. Vancouver supporters were represented, of course, and the atmosphere was the best yet seen for Whitecaps soccer since moving into UBC earlier in the year.

The Whitecaps turned out a lineup that included three Major League Soccer players in Victoria native and goalkeeper Simon Thomas, defender Adam Clement, and defensive midfielder Animu Abdallah. Starters Bobby Jhutty and Cam Hundal both played USL PDL with the Whitecaps in 2012, captain Derrick Bassi was a 2011 Whitecaps PDL player, and, most significantly to the Highlanders supporters, Vancouver forward Sasa Plavsic had played with Victoria in 2012, scoring one Juan de Fuca Plate goal against Fraser Valley on June 2.

Meanwhile, the Highlanders lineup included a number of players from their 2012 roster: goalkeeper Elliott Mitrou, defenders Kalem Scott and Tyler Hughes, midfielder Craig Gorman, and forward Jordie Hughes all saw significant minutes last year; Gorman led the Juan de Fuca Plate in scoring while Jordie Hughes led in assists. This chemistry advantage would work out for Victoria.

The first half was marked by a few good chances, particularly when Victoria forwards Jordie Hughes and Brett Levis found room getting around the Whitecaps' high defensive line. Hughes collided hard with goalkeeper Simon Thomas as Thomas doved to prevent Hughes from getting a quality scoring chance; Thomas remained down for some time but would be fine. In stoppage time of the first half both teams forced good saves: first Elliott Mitrou leaped to tip a Whitecaps shot over the bar, then after restarting play Levis got the ball with room to run and shoot but his shot was blocked by Thomas.

The flurry of late chances promised something in the second half. It was the omnipresent Jordie Hughes who got Victoria on the board: a Tyler Hughes corner kick was nearly headed away but led to a scramble in the penalty area which Jordie Hughes poked past Thomas with a neat poacher's touch.

While the Highlanders fans were celebrating, however, Vancouver regrouped. A few minutes after the kickoff Ethen Sampson started a good breakout down the right through Sasa Plavsic. Plavsic's through ball found a running Niall Cousens who neatly finished a low shot past Mitrou, tying the game.

Then, while the Southsiders were still cheering that, Victoria responded instantly. Quickly buying a corner, Tyler Hughes stroked the kick right onto the head of former Finnish professional Riley O'Neill, who headed his first goal as a Highlander past Simon Thomas to restore Victoria's lead. O'Neill's goal knocked the fight out of what had threatened to be a Whitecaps resurgence: almost from that point forward, Victoria was in control of the game and Vancouver's offense amounted to disjointed attempts between their defense and midfield. Defender Kalem Scott had an excellent chance to extend the lead, but with the Whitecaps defense playing too far off him his fine shot hit the post.

A nasty turnover by Michael Winter led to Victoria's third goal, as Craig Gorman corralled the sloppy pass and found Jordie Hughes with plenty of space. Hughes took a few steps and finished tidily for his second goal of the game. A few minutes later, Vancouver would snatch a consolation goal off a corner kick of their own: University of Victoria man Cam Hundal took a corner and the goal was credited to Niall Cousens with his second of the game, but it may have been an own goal off a Victoria defender. After Cousens's second the Whitecaps mounted a few half-hearted flurries and had a claim for hand ball in the box during stoppage time, but never seriously tested Mitrou. Victoria strolled out of the first game of the 2013 Juan de Fuca Plate with a vital 3-2 road win.

Scoring Summary

50': 0-1 Victoria Highlanders. Jordie Hughes [1]
52': 1-1 Vancouver Whitecaps U-23. Niall Cousens [1] (Sasa Plavsic)
53': 1-2 Victoria Highlanders. Riley O'Neill [1] (Tyler Hughes)
81': 1-3 Victoria Highlanders. Jordie Hughes [2] (Craig Gorman)
87': 2-3 Vancouver Whitecaps U-23. Niall Cousens [2] (Cam Hundal)

Match Reports

Vancouver Whitecaps FC: Whitecaps FC U-23 fall 3-2 to Victoria Highlanders FC
Victoria Highlanders FC: Highlanders conquer 'Caps. Victoria Highlanders defeat Vancouver Whitecaps in five-goal second-half thriller.