Highlanders the talk of Premier Development League; welcome Sounders U-23

There are any number of adages about first impressions.

The Victoria Highlanders seem to have taken them all to heart.

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The Highlanders are ranked No. 5 in the Western Conference of the Premier Development League following their emphatic 4-1 season-opening victory against Lane United of Eugene, Oregon.

The PDL is considered the top amateur developmental soccer league in North America, with nearly 70 per cent of MLS draft picks since 2010 having PDL experience. There are 72 PDL teams spread across the continent in four conferences and 10 divisions. The Western Conference has 20 teams.

The Highlanders meet Seattle Sounders U-23 in a Northwest Division fixture tonight at 7 p.m. at Centennial Stadium.

Victoria spread an expansive recruiting net this year, from Cape Breton to England, and it showed in the opener.

“It’s a testament to how hard we worked in the off-season,” Highlanders head coach Dave Dew said of the early top-five ranking in the Western Conference.

“Last year, we were not even on the league radar. The standard of the league is strong. So we have elevated our standard.”

It wasn’t one of the new recruits, however, but reigning team MVP Callum Montgomery who won individual accolades following the first game. The defender from Nanaimo, a St. Michaels University School graduate and standout with NCAA Division 1 top-16 University of Carolina-Charlotte, was named to the PDL Western Conference Week 1 all-star team.

The 20-year-old got things rolling against Lane United by opening the season scoring at just seven minutes on a screeching free-kick goal.

The four Victoria goals against Lane United were a sign of things to come, vowed Dew: “I am confident of our goal-scoring ability.”

That offensive onslaught can come from anywhere on the pitch, added the bench boss: “It’s not just our strikers who can score, but also the midfielders and even defenders. We have lots of bullets in the gun.”

The Sounders U-23 squad comes into tonight’s tilt in Gordon Head sporting a 1-1 record.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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