After posting an impressive 8-3-3 Premier Development League regular season record to finish second in the Northwest Division, Victoria Highlanders FC fell to a potent Vancouver Whitecaps offence 7-2 at Royal Athletic Park. It was a disappointing result in a game that Victoria controlled in both possession and chances for large portions, particularly in the first half. On the opposite side of the pitch, Vancouver finished nearly all their chances, burying seven of ten shots on net.
Kianz Froese led the offence for Vancouver, posting two goals and registering six shots on net through ninety minutes of play, while teammates Cody Cook and Niall Cousens each recorded a brace. Former Highlander Brett Levis rounded out the scoring with a goal in the victory. For Victoria, Blair Sturrock and Jordie Hughes each recorded a goal.
With play barely underway in the opening half, Levis found himself orchestrating the first of three successive blows against his former club, feeding teammate Cook at the top corner of the 18 yard box who had time to fire a rocket past ‘keeper Elliot Mitrou for the early lead.
Levis followed suit almost immediately with a goal of his own, taking advantage of miscommunication by the Highlanders back line and receiving the ball inside the attacking zone before wiring it home for the 2-0 advantage in the eighth minute of play.
With the Highlanders on their heels, the ‘Caps struck again off a penalty kick from Cook. One-on-one in the attacking zone, Mitrou’s contact with the striker gave the referee no option but to assess a caution and subsequent penalty shot. The goal would put the visiting side up 3-0 before the match had hit the 20-minute mark.
Despite the three-goal disadvantage, the Highlanders pushed forward with a majority of possession through the remainder of the half, receiving a slew of chances that would ultimately fall short of putting the home team on the board. Among the chances was a near breakaway for recent scoring machine Cam Hundal, who fired a low shot just wide right of the goal mouth.
Following Hundal’s near-goal, the ‘Caps struck again on one of their few forays into the attacking zone. This time it was Cousens, who redirected a header inside the left post for the 4-0 advantage heading into the second half of play.
Things got interesting early in the final frame, as the Highlanders finally broke through on the scoreboard with Sturrock putting the ball in from an awkward angle after a scramble in the goal mouth. Vancouver answered back the following minute however, with Froese getting on the score sheet.
Refusing to go down without a fight, Victoria responded with their second goal of the game, as substitute Hughes wired home a blast of his own to cut the goal advantage to three.
Highlanders captain Tyler Hughes was assessed a red and subsequent ejection in the 70th minute after taking down his mark just outside the 18-yard box. The veteran fullback received the largest ovation of the night as he made his way to the tunnel, acknowledging the fans with applause of his own.
Vancouver took advantage on the ensuing free kick, as a Froese free kick ricocheted off Cousens and through a screen of gold and black for the 6-2 lead. Froese would notch his own brace in the 84th minute.
Unable to cut the lead further, the Highlanders would fall 7-2, ending their PDL campaign, while the Whitecaps push their winning streak to nine games, advancing to the Western Conference Championships next week.