VICTORIA, B.C. – The Victoria Highlanders defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps U23s 3-2 to get the defense of their PDL Western Conference crown off to a winning start at Royal Athletic Park on Sunday. Riley O’Neill scored the winner in stoppage time from the penalty spot after a controversial decision from the referee bringing the Highlanders the victory after Vancouver had twice led.
Cody Cook and Ali Musse netted goals for the Whitecaps, while Carlo Basso, Wesley Barrett and O’Neill answered for Victoria.
Victoria’s had plenty of the early chances, but it was Vancouver quieting home crowd after a Reynold Stewart corner found Cook in the 29th minute to put Vancouver up 1-0.
Victoria wasted no time in responding, as Carlo Basso got a header of his own past Whitecaps FC U-23 goalkeeper Nolan Wirth. Basso redirected a nice cross from Cam Stokes to tie the game up 1-1 at 34 minutes.
Vancouver looked to have restored their lead early in the second half, but a Nicholas Prasad goal off of a Stewart free kick was called offside.
Then at the 82nd minute mark, the Whitecaps did regain the lead, as Vancouver midfielder and Winnipeg native Ali Musse put a quick strike into the top corner to put the ‘Caps up 2-1.
Highlander coach Steve Simonson responded to the goal bringing on Wesley Barret and the move paid off almost immediately as just two minutes later, as Barrett took a pass from Basso and fired a bullet past Wirth’s outstretched fingertips.
In the first of minute stoppage time, a ball into the box found Basso, and as Wirth came out to challenge him, he was deemed to have fouled the Highlanders striker, giving the home side a last gasp penalty kick. O’Neill converted into the lower-right corner to win the game for Victoria, who now have the advantage in capturing the Juan de Fuca Plate. Vancouver will have a chance to redeem themselves later this month as they host Victoria in their home opener on Friday, May 23 at UBC Thunderbird Stadium in Vancouver.
Despite the defeat, Vancouver assistant coach Steve Meadley cited the team’s youth as a reason for optimism as the season progresses. “We’re all just coming together. It’s a great learning experience for the new players to come into the club and learn the way we play. They’re all good, solid players who definitely have talent and ability and as the days of training kick on here, they will learn our system, and we will be much more efficient with our performance as a team.”
The Highlanders next face off in PDL action on May 17 against the Kitsap Pumas at Royal Athletic Park.
Next up for Whitecaps FC U-23 is a match against Kitsap Pumas (0W-0L-0D) on Sunday, May 11. The Blue and White head to Bremerton, Washington to take on the Pumas at Gordon Park Field. Kickoff will be at 2 p.m. PT.
29′ – VAN – Cody Cook (Reynold Stewart)
34′ – VIC – Carlo Basso (Cam Stokes)
82′ – VAN – Ali Musse
84′ – VIC – Wesley Barrett
90’+1 – VIC – Riley O’Neill (penalty kick)
Shots: Victoria 11 – Vancouver 9
Saves: Victoria 5 – Vancouver 5
Fouls: Victoria 5 – Vancouver 8
Offsides: Victoria 0 – Vancouver 4
Corners: Victoria 8 – Vancouver 5
31′ – VAN – Mark Baldisimo
20′ – VIC – Riley O’Neill
90’+1 – VAN – Nolan Wirth
Vancouver FC U-23
1.Nolan Wirth; 4.Mark Baldisimo, 6.Jordan Farahani, 5.Nicholas Prasad, 27.Chris Serban; 23.Reynold Stewart, 24.Cody Cook (21.Ali Muse 74’), 25.Yassin Essa, 7.Harpreet Lakhan, 14.Brett Levis (20.Kyle Jones 86’); 9.Niall Cousens
13.William Diaz, 12.Nike Azuma, 15.Vagelli Boucas. 16.Mason James
Victoia Higlanders FC
29.Elliott Mitrou; 5.Ryan Ashlee, 13.Tyler Hughes, 15.Andrew Ravenhill, 4.Gavin Barrett (14.Wesley Barrett 83’); 23.Cam Hundal (8.Adam Ravenhill 87’), 10.Riley O’Neill, 6.Alex Rowley, 18.Cameron Stokes (26.Sam Prette 64’); 9.Carlo Basso, 21.Blair Sturrock (19. Ian Greedy 71’)
1.Brandon Watson, 14.Wesley Barrett, 20.Tarnvir Bhandal, 2.Kevan Brown, 8.Adam Ravenhill, 19.Ian Greedy