Highlanders U20 reserves in B.C.’s Doug Day final

Call it a quick transition for the Victoria Highlanders men’s U20 reserve team.

The top reserve side for the Professionl Development League senior men’s Highlanders play in the Northwest conference of the continent-wide Super 20 league. Their first game of the season is at home against Revolution FC (Surrey) on Sunday (May 15) 1 p.m. at Bear Mountain Stadium.

It will come on the heels of what will be the team’s biggest game of the season – the provincial final for the men’s U21 Doug Day Cup, part of B.C. Soccer’s championship festival of finals happening in Aldergrove May 14.

“Following Saturday’s final, our core players will slip into the Super 20 league,” coach Steve Simonson said.

The U20 Highlanders are actually just 17 and 18 years old, but have done well defeating teams averaging 19 and 20 years of age during the winter season to get into the Doug Day Cup final against the Coquitlam Metro Ford Wolves.

Needless to say it’s been an adventure. The Highlanders defeated Wickham FC (Vancouver) 2-1 in the semifinal at Layritz Park on May 8, and they did it without a regular goalkeeper.

“Our goalie (Eliott Mitrou) was called up to the (PDL) Highlanders. It was very last minute,” Simonson said.

“We put a defender in net, Connor McManaman, who plays left back. He did a great job but (Wickham) had a tactic, once they realized the goalie wasn’t experienced, to put everything on net, it added a lot of stress.”

Kirk Macauley and Connor Boag scored the Highlanders’ goals while Mitrou helped the senior squad upset the reigning PDL champion Portland Timbers in his debut on Saturday.

Simonson’s squad will continue to be one of the younger teams when they move to the Super 20 on Sunday, he said.

“We’re hoping for a potential North American title but it will be challenging.”

The biggest challenge being experience, as the Highlanders will continue to play teams averaging one to two years older.

As for the Coquitlam Wolves this weekend, Simonson said the game will be a tough one.

“Their perennially one of the best club’s in (the province), a true development and feeder system for their men’s team and we expect it to be the most challenging game this year.”