Brett Levis lived up to his billing as the talented midfielder led the Victoria Highlanders to a strong 3-0 season-opening victory over the visiting Kitsap Pumas at Royal Athletic Park late Saturday afternoon.
The Canadian Interuniversity Sport second-team all-Canadian from the University of Saskatchewan — who was the second-leading scorer in Canada West play in the fall — caused havoc for the Kitsap defence.
On a brilliant Victoria day, the Saskatoon native was equally dazzling, setting up Tommy Mallette with the opening goal in the 17th minute and weaving his way through the Pumas defence throughout the contest.
Both Mallette and Levis had opportunities blocked just 10 minutes following the opening goal and another Levis strike glanced over the crossbar in the 28th minute as he created numerous opportunities in the Northwest Division matchup of the United Soccer League’s Premier Development League.
“He’s a great player,” Highlanders head coach Steve Simonson said of Levis. “I talked to Bryce Chapman at the University of Saskatchewan and he told me this kid wants to come here. He’s a dynamic player and everyone I spoke to said he was great.
“I hadn’t seen him much, but I’d seen him enough to know I wanted to give him a chance. He’s a good kid, open to learning and, wow, he put on a show today.”
With plenty of flair and an ability to dribble his way through traffic.
“He’ll create a lot, I think he’ll score and he’ll attract attention,” said Simonson. “We’ve got finishers around him as well and he can score goals. I’ve seen him strike a ball, but we’ve also got guys who can feed off that. One-to-one he’s incredible. His balance and dribbling are exceptional and people will have to deal with it.”
Kitsap obviously didn’t as Levis made it 2-0 in the 64th minute on a left-footed volley that beat Kitsap goalkeeper Dustin Brym.
“I thrive on the crowd and everything. Dribbling is probably my best asset so that’s kind of what I’m bringing to the team,” said Levis. “I’m happy with our home-opener. Half these guys have never played together and as coach said, ‘It’s not going to be perfect,’ but it was a heck of a game we played.”
Pumas striker Alejandro Chavez had a pair of early opportunities for the visitors — flagged for offside on an attempted header and then sending an offering just wide in the opening 10 minutes.
Kitsap defender Brandon Scott had a go at the Victoria net from 40 yards out — a screamer which was stabbed down by Highlanders goalkeeper Joel Wilson shortly after Mallette had provided the hosts with the 1-0 lead.
Levis, who just turned 20 in March, managed to squirm his way through traffic on a pair of occasions in the second half, much to the delight of the crowd of 1,804 (almost twice as many as last year’s average of 950) who enjoyed a fabulous evening under blue skies.
Levis had also sent in Craig Gorman down the left flank in the first half, but Gorman opted to pass off on the golden chance.
Jordie Hughes made it 3-0 in the 75th minute for Victoria as he stuck a toe in as defenders got caught failing to clear it out of harm’s way.
Alex Rodriguez was then awarded a penalty kick in the 78th minute for Kitsap, but Wilson dived to his left to make the stop and preserve the shutout.
“I’m pleased,” said Simonson. “You obviously want to win a game. To win 3-0 in a home opener is great. To have a crowd like we did today is great. I’m happy, I think the owner is happy and the fellas are definitely happy.”
The Highlanders venture to Vancouver on May 17, to face the Whitecaps under-23 team before returning to play host to the Seattle Sounders on May 19.
© Copyright 2013