David Bests Goliath: TSS Rovers Make History with Cup Win
Many believed it could not be done: the last time a non-pro club pulled out a win in the Canadian Championship was nearly four years ago to the day when then (and current) League1 Ontario Champions Vaughan Azzurri bested the HFX Wanderers on the road in 2019, though their victory would be shortly celebrated as Halifax would pull out the series win on away goals.
But today’s TSS Rovers are different: see, unlike many League1 Canada teams who win their respective titles and then are stripped away piece by piece as pro sides pick up their talent, the Rovers were able to avoid much of that this off-season while also adding some pieces whom all played key roles in todays historic victory.
In front of one of the largest crowds the revered Swangard Stadium has seen since its Vancouver Whitecaps days, the Rovers quickly showed their talent on the pitch as the ball seemingly danced around the Valour starting eleven which included such stars as Anthony Novak, Raphael Ohin, and Matteo De Brienne.
Overlooked by the club’s owner-supporters of the Swanguardians, the Rovers applied the pressure from the first whistle and did not look back, despite having not kicked a ball as a squad since August 2022.
Saying after the game about their play style, Rovers coach Will Cormack described it as ‘Attack with the ball, attack without it, that’s who we are. We’re pirates, we’re gonna go and take your loot. That’s who we are, that’s our culture, that’s the people that we are.’
Valour would hold their own with a few chances, including one dangerous free-kick from outside the 18 by De Brienne which was only kept out by the skilled hands of SFU-senior Justyn Sandhu.
But ultimately, the Rovers would get the first laugh as a deep ball to L1BC golden-boot winner Erik Edwardson would fall to the feet of Captain Matteo Polisi who burried it behind Valour’s 6’7 goalkeeper Rayane Yesli.
It would only get worse for the Winnipeg-based side as four minutes later another deep ball would stump the Valour defence as a quick side-step to the right by Ivan Mejia would be all that was needed to put the Rovers up by two.
As you can here in the clip below, even OneSoccer’s Adam Jenkins could not believe what he was witnessing in Burnaby last night.
Polisi and company would continue their dominance into the second-half as a corner in the 62nd minute’ would see the former Pacific man net his second of the night after a beautiful pass into the middle by teammate Kyle Jones.
A visually frustrated Raphael Ohin would go down late in to the game and taken off. Ohin would not return for the rest of the match and as of this publication, the club has yet to release any information about his status – a worrying sign given he had missed last season through injury.
Even with a missed penalty kick by Polisi in the 67th minute and a converted Valour penalty kick in the 88th – thus breaking the Rovers’ clean sheet – nothing could dampen the mood on Will Cormack’s men as this tease of a comeback would be nothing more than that: a tease.
When asked how it felt to be back playing for the Rovers in front of such a dedicated and passionate fan base (including the likes Canadian men’s national team coach John Herdman), Matteo Polisi said that ‘it was pure emotion when I scored that goal… when I jumped into the fans, it’s just unbelievable.’
Unfortunately for the Rovers, while last night’s victory marks the start of a new chapter in their club’s history, it is not the be-all-end-all of games. Rather, they are now tasked with besting the winner of Thursday night’s Pacific-Cavalry match.
This is all the while as Burnaby’s side prepares for the League1 BC season which kicks off in just nine days as the Rovers host Nautsa’mawt FC at Swangard.
But to Cormack, those are both issues for tomorrow. In his eyes, while he will “take any one of ’em” when May 9th comes around, at least for tonight, a beer is in order to celebrate with his boys.
Header Image Photo Credit: Tom Ewasiuk / AFTN