The Victoria Highlanders faced a team Friday night with three players under MLS pro contracts.
But that didn’t stop the Highlanders (2-0) from recording a 3-2 United Soccer League Premier Development League victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps Under-23 side (1-1) at UBC Thunderbird Stadium.
Freshly-signed Matt Polster of Las Vegas, a first-team Missouri Valley Conference all-star for Southern Illinois University of the NCAA, started in midfield for Victoria and was solid.
So was the ever-dangerous striker Jordie Hughes, who scored twice to lead the Highlanders, while former European pro Riley O’Neill of Campbell River scored the other Victoria goal.
The three goals came against Canada-capped goaltender and Oak Bay-product Simon Thomas, who is under contract to the MLS Whitecaps.
“We were nice and organized and countered well,” said Highlanders head coach Steve Simonson. “And our midfield stopped their attacks.”
Niall Cousens scored both Vancouver goals but it wasn’t enough to stem Victoria’s offensive flow.
Thomas certainly got the workout he was looking for in the Caps U-23 net and then some.
“Any playing minutes are key and give me the development I need,” said Thomas before the game, about biding his time as the third signed goaltender with the Whitecaps behind the current MLS regulars Joe Cannon and Brad Knighton, both Americans.
“I go out there day-by-day and push the guys [Cannon and Knighton] in front of me.”
Thomas practises with the main pro MLS Whitecaps and only joins the U-23 Caps for games.
“It’s a busy time. All of this keeps me sharp,” said the graduate of Bays United.
The U-23 Whitecaps featured a few other players the Highlanders know well. The other Caps goalkeeper, Sean Melvin, is also from Victoria. The flash-quick forward Cam Hundal plays in the CIS for the University of Victoria Vikes while striker Sasa Plavsic is a former Highlander.
The Highlanders took the early lead in the race for the Juan de Fuca Plate, which will go to the winner of the three-game PDL regular-season series between the Highlanders and Whitecaps U-23.
The Highlanders face an MLS development team for a second consecutive game when they host the Seattle Sounders U-23, featuring a couple of U.S. Under-20 players, in a Sunday home matinée at 1 p.m. at Royal Athletic Park.
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