Victoria Highlanders FC head to Calgary for a pair of matches versus Canadian rivals Foothills FC to open the 2018 Premier Development League season tonight – May 11 (6:30 PM PST KO) and Sunday, May 13 (1:00 PM PST KO) at Foothills Composite High School.
A revamped Highlanders squad will look to start the season on the front foot and gain an early edge in an ultra-competitive Northwest Division. Both matches will be available to stream online for free at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4SY1H516uI.
Behind the scenes, the Highlanders organization has undergone a complete overhaul since their last match was played. A new ownership group, new logo and an unprecedented number of local partners have come together to put the club back on the sporting map. The changes are a positive step for the club, who will be aiming to rise to the top of Victoria’s sporting scene with fresh game-day activations and professional structure.
On the field, a mix of fresh faces and returning talent from 2017 will take to the pitch for first-year Highlanders head coach Thomas Neindorf and company, who are aiming to erase the memories of a disappointing 2017 season that saw Victoria missing the playoffs in their return to the PDL. Players to watch as the season kicks off include NCAA standouts Callum Montgomery and Thomas Shores, as well as returning fan favourites Cam Hundal and Dundee’s Blair Sturrock.
“Our starting eleven will give us a good chance to be competitive,” said Niendorf. “At the same time we need to be respectful of ourselves too and to understand that we might make a few mistakes and that we may have to overcome a few upsetting situations throughout the game. I’m very happy with the boys, they have showed great willingness to work and learn and accept the slightly adjusted concepts that I’m trying to get across. We want to create a penetrating style, not as much long ball, proactive, dominating possession and using the speed and technical skill that we have with the group of players that we have.”
It will be an early measuring stick for the Victoria club, who have shown well in several intra squad and exhibition matches over the past three weeks. Foothills recently returned from an unprecedented pre-season tour overseas. The 2016 Western Conference champions have also bolstered their lineup with a number of key signings heading into their 2018 PDL debut.
Canadian national team goalkeeper Marco Carducci will start between the woodwork for his new club, while veteran Nik Ledgerwood will patrol at midfield for head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. following a 15-plus-year career at the professional level with 1860 Munich, Energie Cottbus and most recently, FC Edmonton.
“It is going to be a tough challenge for us playing one of the favourites to win the division title,” Niendorf added. “Foothills have a core team that has been together for two years now, they have been successful in the league. They will be very organized, always hard working, a disciplined group, and physically strong. They have good attacking players, speed as well, so at the end of the day it will be who can put their concept into action.
In 2017 Foothills had the upper hand on the Highlanders in their three-match regular season series, edging Victoria by scores of 1-0 and 3-1 on June 2 and June 4, respectively at the University of Victoria’s Centennial Stadium. Ali Musse, Oluwabori Falaye, Kyle Jones and now-Highlander Chris Rushworth registered goals through the two matches, while Victoria’s Francesco Bartollilo chipped in a late equalizer and the lone goal against the Canadian Club at the death of last year’s PDL season finale.
The Highlanders first home game is on May 20 againist the Portland Timbers.