League1 BC Catch Up – Week 4: The New Kids Can’t Catch A Break
As you may remember, back in March I wrote a 2023 League1 BC season preview article in which I reviewed each L1BC men premier team’s previous season while also providing context for their upcoming 2023 campaigns.
In that article, I placed particular emphasis on the underwhelming 2022 seasons had by both Langley’s Unity FC and the Victoria Highlanders, finishing 6th and 7th out of seven teams respectively. The two teams only had six wins between them out of 24 games played.
I truly believe that both teams read my piece from March and decided that they would use this season to show me how wrong I was in underestimating them, and this past long weekend of action in L1BC is a perfect encapsulation of that. There is a lot to talk about over these past four double-headers so do bear with me!
United and Flying High(landers)
We might as well start off with the three games which I found the most interesting to follow along with, starting with the Victoria Highlanders.
The capital’s team kicked off this fourth week of games with a trip up to Nanaimo to take on Harbourside FC in the first ever edition of the Van Isle Derby. Victoria had a by-week last time around to rest their legs, while their opponents were coming off of a bittersweet road trip to Swangard Stadium, having lost 4-0 in the men’s game and won 3-2 in the women’s match to TSS Rovers.
This week, Victoria would leave the Nanaimo side with a two-game losing streak as the winning (and only) goal of the game would come from the right foot of Gregor Smith. A nice high ball from the Victoria backline would send Smith flying down the middle of the pitch. A nifty touch would get the ball around the HFC defender, and a low ball to the bottom left corner of the net would end up besting keeper Cal Weir. Harbourside was never truly out of the match, though their few chances would not be enough to force a draw.
In the women’s derby, both teams ended up walking away with a point, albeit only after a late-game upset by Victoria. The first 14 minutes would be a relatively equal back and forth until a deep ball down the right side left the Highlanders defense exposed. Thinking there was no other option, VHFC keeper Milena Ramirez would challenge it only for Harbourside’s Ava Alexander to chip it over her and watch it slowly roll into the net.
The game would remain in the home side’s favour until in the ’92 when a long, arching ball over the Harbourside defence by Mara McCleary would feed Paige Payne perfectly. A powerful right-footed strike from the the top of the 18-yard box would seal the deal for a draw.
Moving over to take a look at the Langley outfit, Unity FC made a trip around Greater Vancouver for two matches in a three-day stint. First in Burnaby, the TSS Rovers and their Unity opponents decided that it was the day for them to dress up as mirrors as the results in the men’s and women’s matches were exact opposites of each other.
In the men’s game, a pair of brace’s by Ivan Mejia and Massud Habibullah would seal the deal for a Rovers side in desperate need of win, and who now top the L1BC table with this 4-0 thrashing. As for the women’s match, Bryana Buttar, Alanna Bekkering, Sophie Crowther, and Megan Avery would all don their capes serve as the heroines from Langley while their keeper Joven Sandhu faced shot after shot and held back the Rovers attack for all 90 minutes.
Two days later, Unity decided to make a statement at UBC’s Thunderbird arena, outscoring Nautsa’mawt FC 7-2 between the two matches. The majority of these goals would come the men’s game as Unity would bury three in the first 30 minutes of play while another two would come in the ’51 and ’55, putting Unity past their Point Grey opponents in the table and garnering their first win of the season.
The women’s match would prove to be a bit more even as an impressive performance by Nautsa’mawt’s Kat Tolnai would nearly bring home an extra three points by her side, but a last minute free kick taken by Unity’s Sophie Crowther would prove to be too much for Dakota Beckett as the ball snuck past her and her back line for end the match 2-2.
The North Shore’s Altitude FC is such a mixed bag of unpredictability. On the one hand, head coach Faly Basse is leading two teams of young, skilled, Canadian soccer players, while on the other hand, both his teams flip-flop between results and jump across the table, and this past Sunday’s games were no exception.
13 minutes into the match, a careless tackle by Rivers FC’s Domenico Comita on Sacko Konate in the penalty area left the official with no other choice than to point to the spot. A simple yet effective bottom right strike from the mark by Altitude’s Sairoob Sairoob would put Altitude up by one until the half. From the final scoreline, it is clear that Rivers coach John Antulov said something that fired up his boys as by the time the dust had settled, a converted penalty and three strikes from up close all beat Evan Ince, putting Rivers up by three and back in winning form after their 2-0 loss last week.
The women’s match would end up being a bit more subdued as Altitude gave the crowd a case of whiplash as, right after the men’s 4-1 loss, the women’s would woo the North Shore with a three-goal lead of their own, absolutely dominating Rivers in the possession game. Amongst these was this beautiful strike from downtown by Holly Tarves which made the home crowd go wild! Rivers would be unable to mount a comeback even in the slightest with them dropping their fourth loss on the season.
Coming Up In L1BC
This weekend sees five matches over the two days, including two games in two days for both Victoria and Unity (the schedule early on is and has not been kind to Unity).
The TSS Rovers hit the road and travel to the National Development Centre’s Ken Woods Field to take on the Whitecaps’ Academies as the hosts look to remain undefeated.
The Highlanders will be welcoming both Unity and Nautsa’mawt to their home grounds at Centennial Stadium for their first two home games of the season. The Highlanders men will be looking to continue their undefeated streak at home while their female counterparts would love to get their first win of 2023 in their own castle.
Altitude will be looking to capitalize in front of the vibrant and cheerful Kinsmen Stadium crowd as Harbourside comes to the mainland to the North Shore. The winner of the women’s match here will determine who will sit in fourth place, still one game out of reach from the podium.
Perhaps most interestingly of all the matches – and a possible sign of things to come for the league – although at home, Unity FC will be travelling alongside their Rivers FC opponents as the club hosts a match at Exhibition Stadium in beautiful Chilliwack, BC.
Both of the Victoria Highlanders games will be streamed live on the League1 BC YouTube channel and on Telus Optik TV, while other select matches may be streamed or uploaded for On-Demand consumption to YouTube.