AFTN will once again be bringing you full coverage of the BC Provincial Cups from the first round match ups to the finals, with reports, photos, and video highlights of selected matches (although the latter will have to wait a week to get underway due to being down in Portland this weekend for the Whitecaps – unless anyone else fancies capturing some action for us!).
We’re delighted to kick our coverage off this year with some match previews from Canucks4Ever from the Take The Piss forum. If you haven’t checked the site out before, head over and do so. Great banter and local coverage. Canucks4Ever has provided excellent VMSL previews and reports all season long, and we’ll be adding his stuff to AFTN now moving forward, starting with his previews of this weekend’s action across all four competitions.
Here’s his take on this weekend’s A Cup First Round matches.
Aldergrove (VMSL) v Bays Utd. (VISL)
Aldergrove’s quest to become the first ever Fraser Valley team to win the Open Provincial Title begins at home to the VISL’s third place finishers, Bays Utd. Aldergrove’s roster boast, among others, leading goal scorers Connor Hildebrant, who netted 14 time this season and has been signed by the PDL’s TSS Rovers for their debut campaign this summer, and longtime Langara Falcons stalwart Brett Wiens, who added 13 goals of his own this season. The Valley lads will be heavily favoured at home against the travelling Bays crew, who, one assumes, accomplish their wins by committee, given that they have no scorer inside the VISL top 10. When you note that Bays kept only a solitary clean sheet on the season, it would appear that they will need to find some goals in this one in order to have any hope of an upset. Though trading chances with Aldy’s high powered offense, 42 goals in 18 games, doesn’t seem like the best recipe for success. Add in the always relevant travel factor and this one is entirely tilted Aldergove’s way. It would be a massive disappointment for them to bottle it at the first time of asking, I can’t see it happening.
Vic West (VISL) v Abbotsford (FVSL)
Vic were five points off the top, coming in runners-up on the Island. Abby also finished five points back in the Valley, though that was only good enough for a third place finish. Both teams have a pair of seven goal men in Ryan McCurdy and Bryan Taylor from the Island and, for the Abbotsford crew, Carlos Torres and Kris Robazza. These two appear well matched, but again, travel has to be factored into this one. A long way to go from Abby to Victoria and, in a tight game, that can give the home team the advantage they need to get it over the line. We’ll see if the Valley boys can trek into hostile territory and pack the points for the journey home, but I think that Vic have to be the favourites in this one.
Coquitlam Metro Ford (VMSL) v West Van (VMSL)
Match of the Round here and it’s the second consecutive season the VMSL runners up West Van have drawn VMSL Champions Coquitlam in the first round of this competition. To say that the record has been tilted in Metro Ford’s favour is a bit of an understatement. Coquitlam pipped West Van to the title last season, beat them in last season’s Imperial Cup final, knocked them off in the Provincial Cup at this stage last year and then did the double over them in league play in this campaign. The North Shore outfit were a distant second place to CMF this time around, fully 14 points off the pace, and reigning VMSL MVP Carlo Basso managed to repeat as the league’s Golden Boot winner this season. Plus Metro Ford have an axe to grind, and I’m sure plenty of motivation, after losing in the Provincial Final last year. So yes, I would say the odds are somewhat stacked in Coquitlam’s favour. One glimmer of hope for West Van might be the form in which the Tri Cities boys limped to the finish line. Metro Ford lost three in a row, including the Imperial Cup final, before a final victory over relegated North Delta. True, those league losses were to Westside and Inter who were chasing hard for Provincial Cup spots while Coquitlam had nothing to play for, but still, if you are looking for hope from a West Van point of view, that’s likely where you can hang your hat. For me though, I don’t see the upset happening, but let’s hope it’s a cracker of a match as this rivalry continues to grow.
Westside (VMSL) v Nanaimo Utd (VISL)
Westside were the only VMSL team not to draw a domestic opponent in the opening round as they welcome Nanaimo to the Mainland. Both teams likely fancy their chances in this one as each team claimed the final berth available to their league. Nanaimo got in via their Jackson Cup run, though they would have qualified in fourth place so long as the cup finalists had been two of the three teams ahead of them in the table. Westside meanwhile qualified through a last minute playoff, having tied with Richmond FC for seventh in their first season back in the VMSL’s top flight following a two year absence. Daragh Fitzgereald is the danger man for the boys from up Island, as he banged in 13 goals over the 18 game VISL campaign. Westside don’t have a goal scorer who jumps off the page, but whatever they are doing has worked of late. They finished the season on a six game unbeaten run, including their playoff, that saw them post five wins and a draw scoring 19 goals including a morale boosting 4-1 victory over league Champions Coquitlam – by far their heaviest defeat of the season. It certainly seems a well matched tie, but I think the Westsiders are in form at the moment and combined with, you guessed it, the travel factor of coming a long way from Nanaimo to Kerrisdale, I think this one goes in favour of the VMSL entrant.
Cowichan FC (VISL) v Langley Utd. (FVSL)
Cowichan would have been disappointed bowing out of the Provincial Cup to Croatia in the Quarter Finals last season when they surely felt that they were title contenders. Similar to Coquitlam, who ultimately came up short themselves last season despite expectations, Cowichan have returned a year on, again as VISL Champions. At home, and behind VISL Golden Boot winner Patrick Nelson, Cowichan have to be solid favourites. Langley are full value as FVSL runners up, but should really not trouble Cowichan. If Langley are to pull the upset it will likely come via the offense of their leading goal scorers Brayden Gant and Colin Jones, both of whom netted eight times this season. Due respect to Langley, though, similar to Aldergrove, it would be massively disappointing for Cowichan not to advance.
Croatia SC (VMSL) v Rovers Tigers Utd. (VMSL)
Quite a tasty one here as two VMSL teams square off. Croatia were arguably the best team in the league over the second half of the season, rising from early season relegation fears to finish a comfortable fourth place with a record of 12-2-8 which left them just a point behind their opponent, Rovers Tigers, in third. That fourth place finish included an early season draw with Rovers as well as a 4-1 hammering of their opponents, in Surrey, only a month ago. Now they meet again in really the only game that will matter to either side this year. Rovers Tigers are, of course, led by former Toronto FC man Nick Soolsma and his 26 goals from 22 games. Had Estrella de Chile not forfeit the final game of the league campaign, it’s quite possible that Soolsma would have beat CMF’s Carlo Basso to the scoring title. Croatia themselves are no slouches in the goal department, tallying 55 goals, second only to Champions Metro Ford. It is a dynamic family duo doing the business for the Europeans as David and Mark Malamura scored 15 and 14 times respectively. This one is a classic toss-up. I like Croatia’s recent form and especially the fact that they clattered Rovers only five weeks ago; however, Tigers arrived on the VMSL scene among much pomp and expectation. They were touted as potential Champions and, where many carrying those sorts of expectations have failed to come anywhere close to living up to them, the Surrey boys, despite a few wobbles, finished a deserved third place. Croatia is likely the smart choice here, but I have a gut feeling that with a chance to make a real statement on the Provincial landscape, Rovers will come up with the goods.
Pegasus FC (VMSL) v Club Inter (VMSL)
Call it the enigma bowl. These two clubs are near mirror images of each other: teams comprised of great players that really only show up when things matter. Both teams had lackluster league campaigns this season but Inter went on a tear late in the year to secure this Provincial berth and Pegasus won the Imperial Cup. There’s really no point in trying to analyze this one because neither of these teams ever seem to perform to expectation. This one is likely to come down to whichever team has that one moment of brilliance. Will Milad and Milad find the magic formula to advance Inter to the quarter finals? Or will it be Pegasus leading scorer Yassin Essa or longtime stalwart Chetan Jhooty who find a way to ensure it is the defending Provincial Champions who progress? These teams both save their best for when it matters most and I would suggest that this would meet that definition. Their league meetings resulted in a 1-1 draw back in November before Inter made off as 2-1 victors a few weeks ago while they were chasing down Provincial Cup qualification. As for a winner this time, there are ample reasons to go with either team, but I will give it to the current title holders at home.
Port Moody Rangers (FVSL) v Port Moody Gunners (FVSL)
A Fraser Valley derby closes out the first round of Men’s A Cup fixtures. Again, both teams will fancy it, but a rumoured late season influx of SFU talent likely makes Rangers the favourites and a team that many would do well not to take lightly in this competition. These two split the season series, with the Gunners spanking the Rangers 5-0 in October before the Rangers responded with a 2-1 win in February. The two also met in the Pakenham Cup Final with the Rangers emerging as 1-0 winners and booking their spot in this competition. Indeed, Rangers finished well back in the table, eighth place with only 19 points from 18 games. Gunners tied for fourth in the FVSL’s Umbro Premier League, but, despite making both the Pakenham and SoccerCity Cup Finals, failed to qualify directly for the Provincial Cup, requiring a playoff against Westcoast. Certainly that is not a record in big games that inspires an abundance of confidence in their ability to be a factor in the Province’s marquee tournament. I think the Rangers march on out of the Tri Cities and off to the VMSL in the next round.
You can find all of the venues and kick off times for the above games HERE.