May 27, 2018: TSS FC Rovers @ Victoria Highlanders

Victoria Rovers
1 GK Nolan Wirth 30 GK Mario Gerges
2 DF Callum Montgomery o.g. 11' 23 DF Nike Azuma out 70'
4 DF Noah Cunningham 4 DF Eric de Graaf
20 DF Peter Schaale 16 DF Brendan Skinner out 55'
14 DF Gordon Hall 19 DF Danylo Smychenko o.g. 39'
3 MF Cory Bent goal 44' 17 MF Alejandro Varela
10 MF Marcus Campanile out 73' 22 MF Patrick Metcalfe out 46'
19 MF Owen Pearce yellow 22' 8 MF Zach Verhoven out 59'
11 MF Isaac Koch 10 FW Matteo Polisi out 46'
23 FW Cam Hundal out 46' 18 FW Nick Soolsma
12 FW Mitchell Popadynetz out 46' 7 FW Connor Glennon goal 41', out 70'
6 FW Francesco Bartolillo in 46' 14 FW Daniel Sagno in 46'
9 FW Chris Rushworth in 46', red 62' 24 MF Thomas Gardner in 46', goal 76'
17 FW Stuart Heath in 73' 21 MF Marcello Polisi in 55'
15 MF Jonah Smith in 75' 3 MF Erik Edwardson in 59', yellow 83'
11 FW Aidan Moore in 70'
15 DF Christopher Guerreiro in 70', yellow 75'

With Victoria in white and the Rovers in black, you might, if you were that sort, say this would be a game of contrasts. TSS FC Rovers looked renewed compared to their staid 2017 version: though they weren't winning many games they'd won one, and with six goals from their first three (and seven conceded) they were obviously a high-flying outfit. Victoria, meanwhile, had one goal in four games all year (from winger Isaac Koch) but, with Juan de Fuca Plate veteran Nolan Wirth in goal and a solid back line, had been in every match.

Actually, both teams showed remarkable symmetry. In the first half there was an own goal each and a beautiful team effort each; then in the second it was TSS finding themselves on the right side of the inch.

From the fourth minute Victoria went on the attack from a corner and centre back Noah Cunningham, not known for his precision finishing, found himself with the ball at his feet and blazing over the bar from 18 yards. Despite their low-scoring reputation Victoria was well in control of the game until, after a needless giveaway from a throw-in, TSS's Zach Verhoven's cross swung on-goal and was parried by Wirth, but it fell to Eric de Graaf. He only got a piece of it, drizzling it towards the post, but Callum Montgomery accidentally redirected it again between his legs and into the net for an opening own goal.

Barely a minute later, TSS's Mario Gerges had to make an important save and, in trying to catch it, spilled it out just wide of the goal. The ensuing corner constantly looked like it should have generated a big Highlanders chance but never quite did. Victoria was not taking their bad luck lying down but for nearly half an hour one saw a talented team scored so rarely: they could not turn possession into chances, and the best two opportunities came from TSS's Zach Verhoven on the counter, though in neither case did he get the shot he wanted. Veteran Victoria head coach Thomas Neindorf looked concerned.

Victoria had to play scrappy to break through. Juan de Fuca Plate legend Cam Hundal, playing up top, was having a gritty but undistinguished game, but a brilliant give-and-go with Isaac Koch saw Hundal trying to run through both Danylo Smychenko and Brendan Skinner. They sandwiched Hundal, legally, but Hundal's guts were the greater, and when he and Smychenko touched the ball simultaneously it was shoved just past Mario Gerges at about a mile an hour. 1-1, and neither goal a highlight, but both teams were giving it everything.

Then we finally saw some quality. Nick Soolsma, the MLS veteran coming off a 16-goal season in the Vancouver metro league, collected Smychenko's picture-perfect long ball and beat the unfortunate Callum Montgomery like a rented mule. With Montgomery still hanging on Soolsma tried to chip it home but Nolan Wirth robbed him blind; alas, it was not Nolan's day, and the rebound spilled to Connor Glennon whose simple finish hit the net just before Peter Schaale could rescue it. 2-1 to the Rovers.

Immediately afterwards, Victoria turned on their own style. Isaac Koch went on a mazy run, the Rovers defense backing off him, and from out wide lobbed it into the area. Putting his forehead to a good cross, Marcus Campanile bounced it to the unmarked Cory Bent who, on the half-volley, whipped it past Skinner and Gerges. Tie game again!

In the early seconds of the second half, Victoria substitute Chris Rushworth connected with Koch for a decent chance, TSS's own substitute Daniel Sagno blasted a long-range shot not far over, and Koch immediately did the same thing for Victoria. Fans must have had the fans hoping they'd be seeing more of the same.

Alas, while Victoria maintained good possession, they fell into their old habits of not quite generating chances, while Thomas Gardner gave TSS a spark.

And then, with half an hour left, an explosion of stupidity cost the Highlanders heavily. On a corner kick Chris Rushworth backed into Mario Gerges, who went down easily. Rushworth was warned, and while Campanile prepared to take the corner Rushworth backed into Gerges again. Gerges made a great meal of it, which may have been why Rushworth escaped discipline, but tempers were flaring and when the corner was finally taken Gerges flapped it away and Rushworth caught Eric de Graaf into the face. The two screamed animatedly and the referee immediately showed Rushworth the red card. It was completely unnecessary and it may have been the difference.

Though the Highlanders played with hard and tenacity, TSS was in complete control the rest of the way. Gardner and Erik Edwardson had as much of the ball as they wanted. Cory Bent, Victoria's paciest player, ran too hard without purpose and essentially took himself out. Almost immediately after that, with the Rovers given too much room in the Victoria half, Nick Soolsma controlled a ball down to Daniel Sagno, who was surrounded but not challenged. He laid it off to Gardner, who from 23 yards took a single touch and stroked the ball into the bottom right corner to give Rovers the lead.

In vain, Victoria continued to fight. A Koch corner to Gordon Hall bounced to Noah Cunningham at the far post, and though he never got control he should have scored from nearly point-blank range but put it wide. They generated free kicks in dangerous areas and had good possession for a 10-man team trailing in the game, but it didn't turn into enough. Once again it was a Rovers winger, Erik Edwardson, who looked more dangerous off the counter, hitting the crossbar in the 90th minute. The Highlanders' best shot was when in stoppage time they had a shout for handball, but it would have been harsh and was not given. In the end TSS Rovers beat Victoria 3-2, and the Highlanders must have felt awful about it.

Scoring Summary

11': 0-1 TSS FC Rovers. Callum Montgomery o.g.
39': 1-1 Victoria Highlanders FC. Danylo Smychenko o.g.
42': 1-2 TSS FC Rovers. Connor Glennon [1]
44': 2-2 Victoria Highlanders FC. Cory Bent [1] (Marcus Campanile)
76': 2-3 TSS FC Rovers. Thomas Gardner [1] (Daniel Sagno)

Match Reports

Joshua Rendle for the Victoria Highlanders: Rovers gain upper hand in Juan de Fuca Plate derby with 3-2 win over Highlanders.

Full Match Video