May 31, 2013: Vancouver Whitecaps U-23 @ Victoria Highlanders

Photo by Devon Rowcliffe
Victoria Whitecaps U-23
29 GK Elliott Mitrou 13 GK Sean Melvin
23 DF Adam Ravenhill 6 DF Adam Clement
5 DF Ryan Ashlee 16 DF Michael Winter out 90'
2 DF Kalem Scott out 79' 5 DF Derrick Bassi goal 25'
13 DF Tyler Hughes 2 DF Colton O'Neill out 76'
10 MF Riley O'Neill 23 MF Cam Hundal
14 MF Matt Polster 20 MF Aminu Abdallah goal 46'
22 MF Tarnvir Bhandal out 45' 7 MF Harry Lakhan out 76'
11 MF Craig Gorman out 67' 3 MF Ethen Sampson
17 FW Jordie Hughes goal 9' 56' 9 FW Gagandeep Dosanjh goal 58' out 62'
16 FW Brett Levis goal 15' 17 FW Niall Cousens goal 37' 87'
21 MF Blair Sturrock in 45' 10 FW Bobby Jhutty in 62'
7 FW Sahil Sandhu in 79' 4 DF James Farenhorst in 76'
20 FW Tommy Mallette in 79' 21 MF Marco Visintin in 76'
12 FW Sasa Plavsic in 90'

Special report by Drew Shaw

Having won 3-2 in Vancouver on the 17th of May, Victoria Highlanders FC had a chance to win the Juan de Fuca Plate tonight in front of their largest crowd of the season. The skies were blue and clear, the evening was pleasant, and the sprinklers were gently watering the pitch as 2,044 fans filtered in to watch the battle between the home team and their nearest rivals, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (U-23).

The 2012 Premier Development League season saw the debut of the Juan de Fuca Plate. Some memorable games were served up, particularly the last game between Whitecaps and Highlanders in Richmond (which resulted in an away victory), and the final game of the competition at Swangard Stadium between Whitecaps and Fraser Valley Mariners, in which Whitecaps won the inaugural competition on goal difference. This game can certainly be added to that list of dramatic and entertaining contests.

Coming off a flat performance the week before at home to the North Sound Sea Wolves, Highlanders looked determined to get back to the form that saw them defeat Kitsap Pumas SC and manhandle Seattle Sounders FC U-23 at home, and take a road win against Vancouver. In the 9th minute Jordie Hughes latched onto an aerial ball from Brett Levis, and powered home a shot past the left shoulder of Whitecaps keeper Sean Melvin.

Whitecaps had their chances too, but Highlanders were coming forward in waves. In the 15th minute, slippery left winger Levis stole the ball, jinked past a defender on the right side of the Whitecaps' box, and then rounded Melvin and a second Vancouver defender to slot the ball home.

Whitecaps were determined to battle back into the game, and carried most of the play for the rest of the first half. In the 25th minute Whitecaps defender Derrick Bassi finally made their pressure count, hammering into the upper left corner of the Victoria net.

Whitecaps weren't content with one goal, and Mitrou was forced to make a fantastic leaping save off a blast from Harpreet Lakhan in the 34th minute. They looked set to score again within a few minutes when they were awarded a penalty kick. In front of the noisy Lake Side Buoys end, Lakhan lined up to take it. His low drive to the left was parried by a dive to the right by Elliot Mitrou, the second penalty kick which Highlanders' keepers have saved this season (Joel Wilson made the other).

Niall Cousens, who had a hard time keeping his footing all night on the natural turf, levelled for Whitecaps in the 39th minute, as he headed home from near Mitrou's left post, leaving both teams tied 2-2 at the half.

The game didn't stay tied for long after the re-start. Within a minute, Aminu Abdallah scored the goal of the game, an unstoppable rocket from 30 yards straight out into the top right corner, after quick passing back from the right corner flag by Gagandeep Dosanjh via Lakhan. The Whitecaps fans who had come from up-Island and the Mainland to support their team were well-positioned to witness it.

Just as the earlier Victoria goals had galvanised the Whitecaps, this Vancouver goal lead to renewed pressure from the Highlanders. Second half substitute Blair Sturrock, making his Highlanders debut, used a bicycle kick to cross the face of the Whitecaps goal after a run down the left flank from Andrew Ravenhill, but no support was able to arrive for it. Riley O'Neill was starting to pull the strings in the midfield, and Victoria was creating chances. In the 56th minute Craig Gorman headed a ball that fell to Jordie Hughes in the box, and the Highlanders sniper buried his chance, knotting the score at three goals each.

A mere two minutes later, Whitecaps had the lead, a bit against the run of play, and this time for good. Dosanjh scored it, before being substituted four minutes later. At that point the game tempo slowed as time wasting tactics and professional fouls were employed to to kill the game off. Despite their lead, Whitecaps were getting the better of the chances. In the 72nd minute livewire Cam Hundal missed an open net, and nine minutes later Mitrou got the best of him when he was in with nobody else to beat. Whitecaps Michael Winter was fortunate to escape a straight red card in the 82nd minute for a kung-fu kick on Highlanders substitute Thomas Malette (a midfielder on for right back Kalem Scott), but the home side just didn't look like they had another come-back in them on the night as the minutes ticked away.

The last goal of the game came as Victoria's defenders were going forward and leaving gaps at the back. Niall Cousens slotted home a pass from Marco Visintin as three Whitecaps zeroed in on the Highlanders keeper. This result leaves it all to play for, as the Juan de Plate will be decided on Friday, June 28 at UBC Thunderbird Stadium. With their superior goal differential, Whitecaps have the advantage as a tie will see them repeat as Plate winners.

Scoring Summary

9': 1-0 Victoria Highlanders. Jordie Hughes [3] (Brett Levis)
15': 2-0 Victoria Highlanders. Brett Levis [1]
25': 2-1 Vancouver Whitecaps U-23. Derrick Bassi [1] (Gagandeep Dosanjh)
37': 2-2 Vancouver Whitecaps U-23. Niall Cousens [3] (Harry Lakhan)
46': 2-3 Vancouver Whitecaps U-23. Aminu Abdallah [1] (Harry Lakhan)
56': 3-3 Victoria Highlanders. Jordie Hughes [4]
58': 3-4 Vancouver Whitecaps U-23. Gagandeep Dosanjh [1] (Niall Cousens).
87': 3-5 Vancouver Whitecaps U-23. Niall Cousens [4] (Marco Visintin)

Match Reports

Vancouver Whitecaps FC: Whitecaps FC U-23 win 5-3 against Victoria Highlanders
Victoria Highlanders FC: Highlanders fall 5-3 to 'Caps
Victoria Times-Colonist: Highlanders 'gave it away,' in 8-goal game with Whitecaps U-23