Highlanders 'gave it away,’ in 8-goal game with Whitecaps U-23

The biggest complaint detractors have about soccer is the lack of scoring.

They obviously weren’t complaining about that at Friday night’s goal-a-palooza at Royal Athletic Park.

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The Vancouver Whitecaps U-23 side recorded a 5-3 USL Premier Development League victory over the Victoria Highlanders before 2,044 fans.

The goal output would have been even higher if not for the efforts of goalkeepers Elliot Mitrou of the Highlanders and Sean Melvin of Whitecaps U-23, who is from Victoria.

But for soccer purists, that many goals in a game is an issue. And not a good one.

“When you score three goals and lose the game, there’s a problem there,” said Highlanders coach Steve Simonson.

“It comes down to defending and making the right choices.”

“Against weaker teams, we can get away with the way we played tonight. Against a weaker team, we win 3-2 tonight. But this team [Whitecaps U-23] is good enough to beat anybody. They buried us with the mistakes we made.”

The Whitecaps U-23 are among three MLS-affiliate teams in the PDL Northwest Division — along with the Seattle Sounders U-23 and Portland Timbers U-23 — and played like it in improving to 3-2. Victoria’s record went to 3-1-1 with its first loss of the season.

Victoria got off to a 2-0 start on goals by striker Jordie Hughes at nine minutes and Brett Levis at 15 minutes.

“At 2-0, that should have been the game,” said Hughes, who scored twice on the night.

“We gave it away. When you score three goals, you should win the game. But when you give up five goals, you’re never going to win. We were organized but there was no willingness to get stuck in and dig deep.”

Brother and Highlanders defender Tyler Hughes agreed.

“We’ve got to defend a lot better as a team,” he said.

The Highlanders’ offence, however, put Melvin under considerable pressure and he responded. He got the start in the Caps net when Canada-capped Simon Thomas, also from Victoria, was loaned this week to FC Edmonton of the NASL.

“It was busy with a lot of shots,” said Melvin, a Gordon Head association graduate. “We kept at it and kept fighting.”

Niall Cousens led Vancouver with two goals.

The result deadlocked the Juan de Fuca Plate competition between the clubs based on their three head-to-head regular-season games. The Highlanders won the first game 3-2. The Plate will be decided June 28 when Victoria visits Vancouver.

The Highlanders next play June 8 at Royal Athletic Park against Washington Crossfire.

CORNER KICKS: Victoria fans may have seen the last of defender Matt Polster, who is being looked at by the Los Angeles Galaxy and New England Revolution of the MLS.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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