Sound the bagpipes! The Victoria Highlanders have moved into a tie with the Portland Timbers for first place in the United Soccer League Premier Development League. Putting on an offensive display for 1,300 fans at Royal Athletic Park on Saturday night, the Highlanders defeated the Washington Crossfire 2-0.
“We didn’t turn off one time,” said Brett Levis, a sparkplug who assisted on the first goal and scored the second. “Every second, someone was at your back, giving you enthusiasm and momentum as a team.”
The win was especially sweet, as the Highlanders rebounded from their first loss, a 5-3 defeat at the hands of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
“It’s funny how quickly you can put a spin on a season when you lose one,” Highlanders coach Steve Simonson said. “This gives us the confidence we can win.”
The Highlanders (4-1-1) wasted no time in building up pressure in front of Washington goalkeeper Richey Spencer, who had allowed just three goals in four games, before coming into Victoria.
On one early rush, Victoria’s Levis was pulled down — one of the only ways the Crossfire were able to slow down the University of Saskatchewan forward on the night — and Jordie Hughes nicked the crossbar on the free kick from the far corner.
Meanwhile, the Crossfire relied on defence. The visitors did manage to break up the field a couple of times, but on Washington’s best chance of the half, Victoria keeper Elliot Mitrou made a leaping one-handed deflection to thwart a hard shot by Leland Matthaeus.
“The key was holding our nerve to break down what was a difficult team to beat,” Simonson said.
Working on the left wing, Levis had been causing all kinds of problems for the Crossfire, but Simonson moved him into midfield, and the strategy had an instant payoff. Levis wove the ball up the middle and flicked it over to Hughes, who buried it in the 37th minute. The goal was Hughes’ seventh in six games.
“[Levis] just loves the ball,” Simonson said. “He like to dribble and likes to take players on. He thrives on that.”
Coming off a win over the previously undefeated Portland Timbers, the Crossfire (1-1-3) didn’t have the same kind of energy on Saturday, arriving in Victoria with only three substitutes.
Their mood didn’t improve when Levis, on a cross from Andrew Ravenhill, put the Highlanders up 2-0 in the 79th minute, with his fifth goal of the season.
“I felt the team really needed a win, and we came out and got one,” Levis said.
The Highlanders are back at Royal Athletic Park on Friday, when they take on the NorthSound Sea Wolves at 7 p.m.
Corner kicks: The Peninsula Co-op Highlanders women’s team took the field before the men’s game and dominated TSS Academy of Richmond 6-1. The women are now 3-1-2 in the Pacific Coast Soccer League’s Premier Women’s Division and back on the pitch today against Abbotsford FC, 2 p.m., at Tyndall Park.
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