Rovers 0 Highlanders 1 – Cracking under the pressure of the Juan de Fuca plate

Victory Shumbusho stepped up to the spot on Friday night knowing that his penalty would most likely determine what had been a hard-fought derby match between two spirited teams. With the result of the game likely hinging on the result of his spot kick, he took a well-placed shot that found the upper right corner as goalkeeper Luciano Trasolini was left diving the wrong way. The goal came right as the Rovers looked most likely to score and they will feel they got robbed in this one, as they were unable to deliver three points in front of a good crowd on a night where they gave away free tickets for charity.

Match summary

TSS was on the front foot for most of the first half. Some quick interplay between their attacking players led to a few chances, but nothing that could make fans wonder why the game was still scoreless at half-time. Victoria definitely had their threats as well, with their attacks coming primarily from quick transitions, trying to take advantage of their speedy forwards. Jake Ruby,  the Highlander’s right back, found space deep on the right side on a couple of occasions in the first half, but was never able to capitalise.

In the second half, the game opened up a bit and the chances both teams were able to create became of better quality. TSS seemed most likely to break the deadlock and came very close in the 63rdminute when Kristian Yli-Hietanan’s header off a deep cross was put across goal and bounced out off the crossbar with goalie Trevor Schneider beat. Victoria’s defender then whiffed his clearance giving Connor Macmillan a golden second-chance opportunity, but his lash at the ball sent it onto the surrounding track while Victoria’s gaping cage was left untouched. That chance ended up being the closest TSS ever came to scoring, as Victoria soon found their break after a few more missed chances for the Rovers. A through ball from Victoria was blocked by the arm of Danylo Smychenko, which the referee did not miss, immediately pointing to the penalty mark. The Highlanders managed to hang on to the lead after Shumbusho’s right foot proved decisive, providing them to take an important three points in their quest for USL League 2 glory.

Meaning of match

This match was particularly meaningful since it was the first of two legs of what is known as the Juan de Fuca Plate. The return fixture between these two teams goes down in Victoria on July 5th, which will be crucial if TSS hopes to pick up the plate. While these are league matches, the aggregate score and away goals from these two matches will be taken into account to decide a winner. To add to the sting, it was also a crucial match for the Rover’s league position, as Vancouver and Victoria were even on seven points each going into the match. Only the division winner and one of the conference’s second place teams qualify for the playoffs, so it is a very steep climb from here for Vancouver. They now sit fifth out of six teams in the division with seven points from six games played.

Players to watch

Here are some of the Rovers’ stand out performers from last Friday night.

# 3 Jordan Haynes

The central midfielder paired up very well with Mark Baldisimo (honourable mention), patrolling the midfield and spraying balls right and left. The 23 year old from Peterborough, Ontario most recently played for Calgary Foothills FC. Haynes is also a former member of the Whitecaps academy. During his time there he featured for Canada at the U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and for the Under 20 side two years later, where he played alongside Canadian Men’s National Team staple Cyle Larin.

# 19 Elie Gindo

TSS’s central defender has a big frame and was a strong presence at the back end for the Rovers. The product of Langley has two goals from five matches this season.

# 10 Matteo Polisi

Polisi was often part of TSS’s quick attacking movements, proving a threat but missing the finish on this occasion. He often lined up alongside the striker or dropped into the hole in midfield underneath. Much to the delight of the crowd on hand, he attempted a bicycle kick in the 25thminute only for the ball to roll off the outside of his right boot. The forward from Coquitlam is also a member of SFU’s squad and a product of the Portland Timbers academy.

Next Match

The TSS Rovers play another Friday nighter at Swangard this week. For those looking for some local footy to catch while the Whitecaps take a break, come out and help support the team as they look to get a bounce-back victory against Lane United FC. It will be another important game as the Rovers now only have one point from their last four games after winning their first two. They follow that one up just two days later on June 16thagainst Sounders FC U23, with that one kicking off at 2pm. Stick around on Sunday as the Women’s team faces the Westside Timbers later the same afternoon.

The Swanguardians will hope to have more to cheer about this Friday.

Alternative for Vancouver supporters

Since the start of the Whitecaps season, there have been some unhappy southsiders. As stories have come out of abuse of the women’s team especially, many weren’t satisfied with the response from the Whitecaps’ front office. This might leave avid supporters of local soccer who have been turned off by the Whitecaps in a tough spot. Where to go?

That’s where the TSS Rovers come in. A team playing in the United States’ fourth tier since 2017, it is the soccer team from Vancouver we always forget. No, it’s not the same level as MLS, but the Swanguardians don’t care. A Friday night match played on a natural pitch while a beautiful sunset plays out over central park is sure to give a dose of nostalgia to those who have been following the game since the pre-MLS era in Vancouver.

Swangard Stadium has set the stage for some big games over the years. The stadium was most recently home to the Vancouver Whitecaps before their move to MLS and one of the host venues for the 2007 U-20 FIFA World Cup. The TSS Rovers don’t exactly draw the same attention as some soccer games here have in the past, but the experience certainly brings back some fond memories. The playing surface also differs from the Whitecaps’ current home turf. A well trimmed natural grass pitch can be refreshing to watch after becoming used to BC Place.

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