Victoria Highlanders FC (2-0-1) welcomed Seattle Sounders U23 (1-2-1) to Centennial Stadium, May 26th. While the visiting team opened the scoring on a goal by Arthur Herpreck, the Highlanders responded with two goals in the latter stages of the first half from Joshua Walter and Connor Guilherme and held on for the 2-1 home win.
The early stages of the match saw the home side pressure the Sounders’ back line which resulted in a pair of scoring chances for the Highlanders. The first chance came off the foot of Highlanders’ forward Victory Shumbusho who found himself with space in the box before he fired a shot on target that was pushed aside by a diving Nicolas Campuzano in the 5th minute. Before the minute was up, Shun Takano took advantage of an Elyad Shojaei cross to the right side and fired a low shot that went off the far post.
Scoring opportunities were hard to come by in the middle stages of the half, with both squads focusing on possession in the midfield and not giving up any long balls. The 26th minute saw Shojaei given a yellow card for a hard challenge just past midfield.
Seattle struck first in the 27th minute off the ensuing free kick. A header off the free kick landed at Herpreck’s feet before his shot deflected off a defender and into the back of the net to give the Sounders a 1-0 lead. The lead was short lived as the home side took advantage of a free kick of their own shortly after.
Highlanders’ captain Joshua Walter curled his free kick from outside the box into the top left corner of the goal behind a diving Campuzano to tie the game at one. With only a minute of added time in the first half, the Highlanders took advantage of every second. Shojaei sent a cross into the box that found Guilherme in front, where he proceeded to dribble past the defense and fire a shot inside the right post.
After 45 minutes of play, the Highlanders held a 2-1 lead over the Seattle squad.
The second half saw the Seattle Sounders make several substitutions that reenergized the team and their offensive attack. They started to push up the field and use the long ball to try and get behind the Highlanders’ defensive line. Simon Norgrove, coming off a clean sheet against Timbers U23, fought off a dangerous low angle shot from the Sounders in the 58th minute to keep the home team in front.
After coming on for Mitchell Popadynetz in the 68th minute, Highlanders’ midfielder Mackenzie Cole found himself behind the Seattle defense and took a low shot that was turned away by an outstretched Campuzano.
With the final whistle looming, the Sounders made a late push for the tying goal. RJ Stretch, positioned just outside the six-yard box, redirected a James Filerman cross, a shot that looked destined for the back of the net, but Norgrove dove to his left and swatted the ball away in the 90th minute. The save ended up being a big one as the Highlanders held on for the 2-1 victory.
“In the first half we had a very good approach from the back, created a lot of great approaches towards the net, but we weren’t as decisive as we needed to be at times,” added Highlanders head coach Thomas Niendorf. “Lots of great approaches from the back, moving the ball from the back to the midfield and into the attacking third. The most positive aspect today was to come back from a goal against the run of play and to score two quality goals before halftime and hold the lead. The boys really responded. The second half saw Seattle make some substitutions and refresh the team. Put a little bit of long ball on us. They have some big bodies that can go up and take advantage of their heading abilities. We hung in there, grinded it out a bit, but overall from a mentality point of view I’m really happy with the boys.”
The Highlanders are back in action on Sunday, June 2nd at Centennial Stadium versus Lane United FC for First Responders Day at the Park. Kick Off is at 2:00 PM. For tickets and more information, please visit www.highlandersfc.ca.
Rise & Grind Player of the Match
VHFC: Joshua Walter 29’, Connor Guilherme 45’
SEA: Arthur Herpreck 27’
VHFC: Elyad Shojaei 26’, Shun Takano 64’
SEA: Ahmed Longmire 34’
Victoria Highlanders FC
Norgrove (GK); Banton, Guilherme, Ruby, Shojaei, Young, Joshua Walter, Ando (Davidson 62’), Takano (Adib 76’), Popadynetz (Cole 68’), Shumbusho (Hill 81’)
Seattle Sounders U23
Campuzano (GK); Degroot (Marcey 82’), Bauer, Kouma, Herpreck, Longmire (Filerman 62’), Teves (Stretch 81’), Dos Santos (Adams 79’), Jammet (Mullings 57’), Brigida (Meza 45’), DeCastro
REF: Brett Hartmann
AR1: Evan Fryer
AR2: David Schmidt-Schweda
4th Official: Jonathan Neilson