This past weekend, Victoria Highlanders FC hosted Portland Timbers U-23 at Centennial Stadium. It was wet and dreary throughout the match, with the 1st eight rows of the covered bleachers drenched in rain while roughly 100 guests watched the match play out. With fans having given up on Highlander’s promise to make jerseys available for purchase online this season, those in attendance continued to hope for a reason to remain optimistic about the team’s chances for the remainder of the Premier Development League season.
With a couple new signings going into the match, it was widely hoped that the team’s winless streak would come to an end. Highlanders were quickly on the defensive as Timbers U-23 immediately took control of the match. Portland consistently challenged for the ball, and was able to complete passes regularly. Victoria, in contrast, seemed content to let Portland take command, presumably hoping to have breakthroughs on the counterattack and benefit from errors. In the 25th minute, that’s how scoring opened up. A good cross from Andrew Ofosu was intercepted in the box by Portland’s defense, but the attempted clearance went directly to Owen Pearce who sailed it right past the keeper, Jordan Farr. Despite a vast difference in possession, Highlanders led, 1-0, at half-time.
As the second half kicked off, Portland was swiftly on the offensive. The Highlanders found their 4-4-2 formation soundly bypassed as Francesco Amorosino opened up the scoring for Portland in the 47th with a header past Simon Norgrove. It only took a few more minutes for the formation to disappear as the team seemed to have a lot of trouble putting guys across the pitch and clumped toward the defense. They did seem to have 1 or 2 players taking some time in the midfield, so if I had to label the formation, it would be a pretty ineffectual 6-2-2, which is still an improvement from the 8-0-2 that failed them in their previous match. With Portland continuing to dominate the possession, it is pretty amazing that the visitors only managed 6 shots over the course of the match.
As Victoria tried to hold out for the draw, Portland continued their offensive. In the 87th minute, several attempts by Portland would be stopped by Highlander’s 6-man defensive unit, before an unlucky bounce found William Spurr in the clear. Spurr spun the ball toward the net and bounced it off the post and in to give Portland the game-winning-goal. Victoria would have a couple chances as the game wound down, but they were unable to finish.
Highlanders have a double-header against TSS FC Rovers on June 23rd & 25th, kicking off the Juan de Fuca Plate competition. With Highlanders ranked above last-place Rovers due to goal-differential, it is entirely possible that the Plate may be making its way back across the Salish Sea to the mainland. It will definitely be a scrappy match between the two sides, and both the Lake Side Buoys & Swanguardians will be in attendance to cheer & jeer.