Victory comes in many forms.
It did Sunday for the Victoria Highlanders, literally through a guy named just that.
Former Whitecaps Residency player Victory Shumbusho carried the ball up the right side before veering dramatically to the net to score the winner just before the half at 45 minutes. That was followed by Sean Young’s cracker of an insurance goal early in the second half, from outside the box, as the Highlanders defeated Portland Timbers U-23 by a 2-0 count in a United Soccer League 2 fixture at Centennial Stadium.
Shumbusho, who plays in U Sports for the UBC Thunderbirds, has a compelling backstory. The 2017 Canada West conference rookie of the year moved to Chilliwack with his family six years ago, as refugees from the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Shumbusho graduated from Burnaby Central, which is where all the Whitecaps Residency players attend high school.
“We’ve had our eyes on Victory for a while, but he was injured last year for most of the season at UBC, and unable to join us until now,” said Highlanders head coach Thomas Niendorf.
“He is a future prospect for the [professional] Canadian Premier League.”
If able to make the jump, he would join Highlanders alumni in the CPL such as Ryan McCurdy and Nolan Wirth of Island-based Pacific FC and Peter Schaale of the HFX Wanderers of Halifax. If Victory sets his sights even higher, there is Highlanders alumnus and 2019 fourth-overall MLS draft pick Callum Montgomery to emulate.
Shumbusho provided just the sort of offensive precision the Highlanders were looking for after a 1-1 season-opening draw against Lane United of Eugene, Oregon, which included a missed penalty kick by Victoria that could have won it.
“We wanted our players to be more decisive in front of the opposition net, and they were,” said Niendorf.
“We were definitely better with our finishing.”
Berlin native Niendorf has strong connections to soccer in Germany, right to the highest pro levels, so that background means he stresses not only offence but all aspects of the game in methodical style. The clean sheet, recorded by third-year Highlanders goalkeeper Simon Norgrove, meant as much as the goals.
“Defensively, we were well organized,” said sophomore Highlanders bench-boss Niendorf.
The Highlanders, retooled and appearing poised after missing the Northwest Division playoffs the past three seasons, host Seattle Sounders U-23 on Sunday at Centennial Stadium.