And the Sounders U-23 team proved its worth on the pitch Friday night before 470 fans at Centennial Stadium in a 1-0 victory over the Victoria Highlanders. The hosts were left deflated by a late goal in the 86th minute as a deflected shot by Adam Jones found its way behind Victoria goalkeeper and man-of-the-match Simon Norgrove.
“You can’t do anything when it deflects like that. In the end, were were just unlucky,” said Norgrove, the Reynolds Secondary Roadrunners graduate, who just completed his freshman U Sports season with the University of Guelph Gryphons.
Sounders U-23 moved to 2-1 on the young United Soccer League Premier Development League season while the Highlanders levelled to 1-1.
“Let’s take it on the chin and move on,” said Victoria coach Dave Dew, in addressing his charges following the game.
“But we need to be smarter.”
He liked his team’s play, but in patches.
“We panicked a bit in the second half,” said Dew.
“Sounders U-23 are a good team that is well organized. But that said, our finishing wasn’t there. We just need more time together to jell.”
Dew gave a special shout-out to his keeper, Norgrove.
“Simon was great tonight,” said the Highlanders’ skipper.
“The deflection was unfortunate but it’s part of the game. One day, we’ll get that bounce.”
Seattle had the better of the chances, especially in the second half. Norgrove was well positioned on a close-in Seattle header in the 62nd minute. A Sounders header by Derek Johnson three minutes later floated just above the crossbar as the Puget Sounders began to come on. A Seattle goal was ruled off-side at 67 minutes. Norgrove deflected a labelled shot over the crossbar at 72 minutes, which was followed by a Seattle shot directly off the crossbar three minutes later.
Owen Pearce, a former Canada U-20 long-list prospect now with NCAA Div. 1 Robert Morris University, and Solomon Constant from Iowa Western had Victoria’s best chances, but Sounders-23 goalkeeper Cameron Frost was there when needed for the clean sheet.
Pearce said Victoria tried a new attacking formation but it wasn’t connecting: “We were kind of mismatched in what we were doing and then began getting frustrated.”
It’ll take time, said Dew, to get everybody on the same page: “It’s only the second game. There are some things to look at and re-evaluate.”
The next games for the Highlanders are June 2 and 4, both against the 2016 USL PDL runner-up Calgary Foothills at Centennial Stadium.
The Highlanders, Sounders-U23 and Foothills are part of the six-team Northwest Division of the Western Conference.