Could the Vancouver Metro Soccer League’s dominance of the Provincial A Cup be coming to an end? The last six winners of the trophy have all hailed from the VMSL, with VISL side Gorge FC being the last team from outside the league to win the Cup in 2010.
Recent seasons have seen all-VMSL finals, and often semi-finals, but this time around the Fraser Valley Soccer League may just have something to say about that.
This weekend’s quarter-final match ups leaves Westside FC and Club Inter as the last two VMSL sides standing, battling it out for the A Cup title and a place at the nationals with FVSL teams Aldergrove United and Langley United.
Westside sprang the shock of the round on Friday night, knocking out Cup favourites and runaway VMSL Premier champions Coquitlam Metro Ford Wolves at Charles Best Secondary. The teams were scoreless at the end of 90 minutes and tied up at one apiece after extra time, thanks to Westside’s last second equaliser. That set up a shoot out and the Westsiders advanced 6-5 on penalties on a wild night, throwing the destination of this year’s trophy wide open.
Here’s Canucks4Ever’s report of the match from the Take The Piss forum.
Coquitlam started brightly and had the visitors under the cosh for the opening 15 minutes. They failed to convert their pressure into a goal and Westside grew into the game. No VMSL Golden Boot winner Carlo Basso in this one or perhaps he would have been able to find a decisive touch for Coquitlam. Zeros at half time, but Westside came out flying nearly catching the Metro Ford goalkeeper in possession seconds after the restart.
For the next half hour things tilted towards the Westsiders, but they too failed to make their pressure tell. Against the flow, former Whitecap, Surrey United man, and ageless wonder, Steve Kindel, let fly with a long distance effort that took every inch of the giant Westside keeper to touch it on to the bar. Fifteen minutes to go is where the real fun started though. A Coquitlam through ball seemed to take a touch en route to finding a wide open striker at the penalty mark. Everyone seemed to stop for a split second, including the striker, but when no offside whistle came he did what a striker at this level does and buried it. The protests were instantaneous and unanimous from the Westsiders and former MLS and National List referee Marco Arruda seemed to have been expecting the flag as well. Consultations with the assistant occurred and the end result was the flag being raised and the goal being chalked off for offside. Coquitlam were vexed, but, in truth, did not seem vehement in their resolve that the play wasn’t offside.
This sparked the home side into life and they sensed a winner. Westside were seemingly tiring and the Tri-Cities lads smelled blood. Sure enough, roughly ten minutes after the disallowed goal a low, long range effort was saved by the Westside keeper, but he could only parry the ball to an open attacker who had an empty net to finish in. Except this time the flag was up. Coquitlam’s celebrations quickly turned to protests and on this occasion they were vehement. Marco, perhaps feeling a pang of empathy having already disallowed one goal for a contentious offside, did not simply blow the whistle, but instead enlisted his assistant in another consultation. The man with the flag was unmoved however and the goal was ruled out to the howls of the home crowd.
Off to extra time then and the sides would trade chances in the opening period. Coquitlam looked to have finally broke the lock at the back of Westside and slipped in their speedy winger. The keeper charged brilliantly though and blocked off the shot. At the other end, some lovely one touch combinations set up the Westside winger rolling across the top of the box on his right foot, but his curling effort whizzed inches wide of the top corner, far post.
The teams switched ends and the major talking point would occur with just under ten minutes to play. Coquitlam got a through ball in to their striker, all alone, no flag up, and the keeper was forced to charge out and try and smother the ball. The striker showed his class, deftly dinking it around the onrushing goalie and the result was predictable as he was clattered for his troubles. His teammate though came streaking in to bang home into the unguarded cage but, alas, the whistle had gone. Marco was visibly distraught having prevented yet another Coquitlam goal due to his hasty whistle and Metro Ford appealed in vain for a retroactive advantage to allow the goal. There was nothing that could be done but a penalty kick loomed for the hosts to try to give them what they felt was, no doubt, a justified lead and Marco produced a red card to the Westside goalkeeper.
Now, those of you in the know might be aware that FIFA just this season changed that rule. It is no longer a sending off and only a caution to deny an obvious goal scoring opportunity by a foul IF that foul occurs inside the penalty area and IF the foul was committed in the act of attempting to play the ball. What this means for defenders is they need to go in with their feet and have a reasonable chance to win the ball (i.e.: if they come in with their arms or if the guy is past them and they take out his legs from behind it’s still a red). What this means for goalkeepers though is that, unless the player has already completely gone around him/her, it stands to reason that they are always attempting to play the ball. The rule was changed because teams, and FIFA, felt it was too harsh a punishment to lose both a player (in many cases a goalkeeper) and have to face a penalty (which is the majority of the time a goal against or, at the very least, a “goal scoring opportunity”) for fouls that occur in good faith, as part of the normal course of playing the game, in the attempt to genuinely prevent an attack legally and that would often not even merit a booking should they occur elsewhere on the pitch. It did not seem that too many people at the park knew of this rule, certainly the offending goalkeeper did not, having already removed his jersey and gloves and began to walk off the field.
However, the Westside coach was apoplectic on the sidelines, screaming about the rule change and demanding that, if the referee did not know the rule, one or both of his assistants inform him of it. Whether there was some communication, or Marco just had a “light bulb” moment, who knows, but he recalled the goalkeeper and instead issued clemency and only a yellow card. The home crowd was again less than pleased, though at least a few of the players did seem to know the rule.
Metro Ford slotted the PK, although the recently pardoned keeper came fingertips away from preventing it. Single digits on the clock and Westside mustered the adrenaline for one final push. Metro Ford defended for their lives, but did not seem interested in fighting to keep the ball at the opposite end of the park. That might be understandable given that they had played nearly two hours of football, but what it meant was that they were content to allow Westside possession to probe around the periphery and set up their attack. It would prove costly just as the clock rolled over to the 120th minute.
Westside had all day to switch the ball around centre and their right fullback whipped in a fizzing cross. The Westside attacker, who was apparently a centre back thrust forward at the utmost of need, went up with the Metro centre back to challenge for it. Dylan, in the Coquitlam goal, had to respect that someone might get a touch to it but when it just barely cleared the pair of them the Westside winger did well to keep his concentration and nod a bullet of a header into the back of the net to force this one to be decided on penalties. Metro Ford shot first and both teams went five for five until the sixth Coquitlam shooter, and captain, sailed his attempt over the bar. Westside would score to advance.
So certainly plenty of talking points and Coquitlam with the right to feel somewhat aggrieved. It’s a tough one to say, given the way the referees handled it. Certainly the execution was lacking from the officials. As a player/coach/fan you want to see the referees being decisive, but, at the same time, I think we all, ultimately, want to see them get the call right. While stopping to consult with the your fellow officials might be perceived as a lack of “knowing what is going on” it may in fact just be a product of the level of play. At the highest level the referees have the technology available to be in constant communication, so they same sorts of consultations may occur, however, less visibly. At the end of the day though, whatever your opinion, the fact is that the dream will have to wait for yet another year for the two time defending VMSL champions, while it lives on for the upstart, newly promoted Westside.
Westside’s form has been strong to see out the VMSL season, but they will have another tough nut to crack in the semi-finals when they travel to face FVSL Premier champions Aldergrove United, who have to be the new favourites to lift the A Cup crown for the first time in their history.
Aldergrove advanced to the last four with a comprehensive 4-1 win over VISL side Vic West FC on Saturday afternoon. FVSL Player of the Year Connor Hildebrandt warmed up for the upcoming PDL season with TSS FC Rovers in some style, hitting a hat-trick in the rout. But with TSS’ season starting this weekend, Hildebrandt will be away in Calgary for the Rovers first two matches, leaving Aldergrove with a hole to fill if they want to get past Westside in what should be a cracking semi-final.
Again, here’s Canucks4Ever’s report of the match.
Aldergrove looked the better from the off, with their direct play really causing problems for the Island group. Brett Wiens was a handful upfront and it was nice to see him still playing and being effective. He did a stint in the city playing for Langara and, I believe, Rino’s in Division 1. Still sporting a pair of knee braces, but he was definitely just as much of a pain in the ass as the player I remember him being a few years ago. Back to the game, where Aldergrove failed to turn their early dominance into anything tangible and Vic West were finding their feet. A few dangerous counters and set pieces had the visitors looking threatening and they should have opened the scoring when a well placed shot struck the crossbar. It was pretty even at this point, with both teams trading less than prime scoring chances and then Hildebrandt found the back of the net. It was a bit of an innocuous scramble in the Vic penalty area and Connor just seemed to want it more, forcing one past the keeper, though it didn’t exactly rip the netting out. Not that Aldergrove could be bothered, they were in the ascendancy, much to the delight of a boisterous and partisan home crowd.
Second half continued in the same vein until the home side doubled their advantage with another scrappy one. The ball was pinging around in the box until it was poked through for Hildebrandt who was never making a mistake from that range. Big appeals for offside from the Victoria players, but the linesman was unmoved. To the visitor’s credit though they fought back into it with a cracking finish, far post to make things interesting. Then, in my opinion, the play of the game. Vic had their tails up and got around the back of Aldergrove down the right wing. The ball was cut back to a wide open attacker, dead centre, just inside the box. He made good contact but was denied by an all-world save from the Aldergrove keeper. I think his name was Nuno? At least I think that’s what the crowd was cheering. He’d been good all game, very safe hands, but this was next level, though I’m sure the striker will feel he should have done better.
Aldergrove would make it safe with just under a quarter of an hour to play. The ball came across the box to a substitute who had come in on the wing and he hammered it home. He hit it with pace and good technique, but the Vic goalkeeper hardly covered himself in glory getting beat at his near post. Now that the match was ostensibly finished referee Ruben, who had been having a relatively quiet game in the middle save for one entertaining “blood on the sock” incident, decided to give the FVSL and VISL boys a taste of what they miss out on during the regular season. Vic was called for a foul and there was a discussion that resulted in a yellow card for some unsolicited Victoria input. The kick was swung in where Wiens and the Vic West defender were tangled up and went down in a heap. Ruben pointed to the spot, despite limited, if any, appeal from Aldergrove, and you can imagine how the visitors from the Island reacted. Three yellows and a red I believe I counted. Hildebrandt slotted the spot shot to round out his hat trick and send Aldergrove into the semis.
In the other half of the draw, FVSL runners-up Langley United moved into the semi-finals with a closely fought 1-0 win on Friday night against third placed VMSL side Rovers Tigers United. Langley managed to keep the VMSLers strong goal threat at bay all night, grabbing the only goal of the game through the team’s joint leading scorer Brayden Gant for a famous victory.
Langley had to wait till Monday night to find out who their opponents would be, with a floodlight failure forcing the abandonment of the quarter-final between VMSL team Club Inter and FVSL side Port Moody Lordco Gunners on Friday night.
The match started with one of the set of floodlights not working. The natural light was good to allow the game to get to half time, with the teams scoreless. After being advised that it would take four hours for the Parks Board to get someone to come out and fix the lights, the referee called the match.
BC Soccer rearranged the match to be played in full on Monday night, with home field advantage switching to Port Moody.
The teams were again scoreless at the half but the game came to life in the second 45 following a long injury stoppage for the Gunners keeper and an Inter attacker after a huge collision. Both had to go off and be substituted, and with Port Moody still organising their new look backline, Club Inter pounced, with Michael Nonni putting away a Milad Rahmati cross to give the VMSL side the lead and what proved to be the match winning goal.
Inter hit the bar with a long range strike as they tried to kill the game off but there was to be no further goals, even with around 13 minutes of stoppage time added on.
So another great weekend of Provincial A Cup action, setting up two very tasty FVSL v VMSL semi-finals. Hopefully scheduling will allow us to take in both matches this weekend, as they should be crackers.
Will it be an all-FVSL or all-VMSL final? Or will both leagues still have interest in the competition come Sunday night. We’ll bring you full coverage of both semi-finals next week here on AFTN.