Burnaby Lake and Swangard Stadium will play host to this weekend’s Provincial Cup finals and if the action on the pitch isn’t enough to get you out of the house to watch some live football, the wonderful weather forecast should be your added bonus.
The five men’s and three women’s finals will be played out over the two venues this Saturday and Sunday, with the showcase A Cup finals taking place at Swangard on Sunday afternoon. A fitting venue for it all.
The weekend is the culmination of a very enjoyable five weeks of football. Four of the five local leagues will have representatives in this year’s men’s finals, and there’s some great storylines to follow as the battle for silverware reaches it’s conclusion.
We hope you’ve enjoyed following all the action again here on AFTN. It’s certainly one of my favourite parts of the footballing calendar here in BC and we love bringing you all the reports, previews, videos, and photos. We’ll have a lot more of them to come this weekend. If you’ve missed any of it, check back on the site and watch our video highlights on our You Tube Channel.
Canucks4Ever from the Take The Piss forum has brought you some comprehensive previews for each round of the various Cups, so for one last time this year, here’s his thoughts on this weekend’s A, B, Masters, and U21 finals.
A CUP FINAL:
Langley United (FVSL) v BCT Rovers Tigers United (VMSL)
[Sunday May 13 – Swangard Stadium, Burnaby – 3.00pm kick off]
For the second season in a row the FVSL is knocking on the door. The noisy neighbours are getting noisier and nosier as the once rather significant gap among the top teams in the Lower Mainland’s top two leagues has narrowed, at least among their elite teams.
This year, in the VMSL, there was none more elite than Rovers Tigers. The Surrey boys officially debuted their new brand in the 2016/17 season, after spending various seasons as different incarnations of the club such as CCBRTU, Langley Hurricanes, and Delta Hurricanes. Ultimately, all the various mergers and reconfigurations spawned a team wearing orange and playing out of Newton Athletic Park.
Once upon a time the franchise began its life as Sapperton Rovers, playing across the river in New Westminster and Sapperton Rovers were VMSL Champions back in 1997 as well as Provincial Cup winners in 2006. Sapperton has local footballing roots tracing all the way back as far as the record books go, as Sapperton FC are noted as the champions of the 1926 Imperial Cup.
Their inaugural season as Rovers Tigers likely fell short of their expectations as they were well off the pace of runaway league winners Coquitlam Metro Ford, ultimately finishing in third place when the final points tallies were added up. They seemingly learned from this however, as they returned this season more focused, and it was their turn to be runaway leaders as they began the season by winning their first nine games in a row. True they were briefly reeled in by their Newton cousins, Pegasus, but they were never surpassed as they led from wire to wire.
An already stacked roster that includes former Toronto FC frontman Nick Soolsma, as well as Pavi and Ryan Dhillon and Cam Hundal, added long time Pegasus stalwart Chetan “CJ” Jhooty and former Whitecap Jacob Lensky this season. This team has been assembled to do more than just win a Provincial Title, they are looking to win BC’s first National Championship since Pegasus won in 2004.
In order to get to that stage though, they must win the Provincial Cup and their first attempt at that last season also left them feeling underwhelmed when they lost 1-0 to none other than Langley United.
The FVSL runners up for the second season in a row, Langley United, seem to operate just off the radar. They stunned VISL Champions Cowichan last season when they showed up in Duncan and bagged a 1-0 win before shocking Rovers in the next round. They would lose to eventual champions Inter in the semi-final last season, but they got over that hurdle this year and are now looking to bring the Men’s Provincial A Cup to the FVSL for the first time ever.
Langley won the Pakenham Cup in 2016 and the Premier League Cup in 2017, before failing to defend that title this season, losing the final to Coastal FC who also pipped them to the league title. The Valley side are hardly flashy or brash, but they are here to get the job done, quietly and confidently. Absent the star power of some of the other teams in the competition, Langley is led from the back by their all-star goalkeeper, and TSS Rovers number one, Andrew Hicks.
Langley United have been a mainstay in the Fraser Valley for as long as the league has been around. In the same season that Sapperton FC was winning the Imperial Cup, 1926, Langley were winning their first Pakenham Cup. Obviously leagues, clubs, and teams have all changed significantly since those days, but Langley, in some iteration, has always been a part of the set up in the Valley in one form or another. How fitting, then, it would be for one of the pillars of the FVSL to bring home their first ever Provincial Title.
Unfortunately for Langley, should they manage to achieve that, due to circumstances beyond their control, this tournament will likely be remembered for controversy rather than the eventual champion, whoever that ends up being.
This season was the year that many in the amateur soccer community learned the phrase International Transfer Certificate (or ITC) and just what it meant. After last season’s finalists from the FVSL, Aldergrove, were well beaten by Rino’s Tigers 6-0 in the opening round, the league filed a protest regarding Rino’s not having obtained an ITC for one of their players. This kicked off a whole hurricane of activity across the amateur soccer landscape and, when the dust finally settled, both Rino’s and Aldergrove were expelled from the tournament for having ITC violations with their respective rosters.
This robbed Langley of the opportunity to earn their way into the semi finals and instead they were handed a bye after coming from 2-0 down to defeat their FVSL rivals Surrey United on penalties in their opening fixture. Nevertheless Langley soldiered on and faced the team that had eliminated them last season, defending Provincial Champions, Club Inter. The FVSL side would vanquish their demons and emerge 3-1 winners thanks to some top goalkeeping from Hicks and a Brayden Gant hat trick.
Rovers Tigers were not handed any byes, however their path to the final was not void of ITC controversy either. After coming from behind to defeat a resolute Vic West side 2-1 in extra time in their opener, they were once again behind 1-0 to their local rivals Pegasus before a second half penalty and a late winner saw them come out on top 2-1. However, Pegasus filed a protest alleging that one of the Tigers players required an ITC but did not have one. BC Soccer seemingly found that while the player did not have an ITC on file, he did not require one because he never had an ITC on file when he played abroad. Therefore he was always eligible to play in Canada and technically ineligible to play if and when he suited up on foreign soil. This ruling did not satisfy Pegasus, however the decision was final and Rovers headed over to Duncan to play the Vancouver Island Soccer League Champions, Cowichan FC last Sunday.
After both Nick Soolsma and Pavi Dhillion were on target in Rovers first two matches of the competition, the semi-final was the Soolsma show as he put up a hat trick and showed the VISL why he has finished in the top two in VMSL scoring the past two seasons.
So it all comes down to this, one final game to settle things among the FVSL and VMSL again this season. Langley are strong and look perhaps more capable of breaking the Provincial Cup hoodoo than Aldergrove did a season ago. However, Rovers have been building up to this point for years and it is tough to see them fumbling it now that they have a chance to seize their moment. The beauty, and arguably the tragedy, of a final is that it is one game where anything can happen. One rash decision or one moment of sheer brilliance can decide the match, regardless of who the “best” team might be.
Give Rovers a league campaign that includes Langley and it is likely that over the course of that competition Rovers will be a cut above. This is just one game though, and Langley don’t even need to be better than Rovers for the whole 90 minutes, they just need to be better than them when the clock reaches the 90th minute. Still, I have to pick Rovers as favourites here.
It would seem like the key to beating them would simply be to control Soolsma but, first off, that is easier said than done, and second, there are still the Dhillons to contend with as well as Hundal and CJ pulling the strings in midfield. Yes, Langley have done it before when they beat Tigers last year, but I just cannot see lightning striking twice. This is a different animal this time around as Rovers have a few different pieces, but a much more focused mind set.
This is not an end point for the Surrey side, it is just another step on a journey that they see ending with them raising the Challenge Trophy in October as National Champions. Langley might be built to win a Provincial title, but Rovers are built to win a National one and I think that mentality will make the difference at Swangard on Sunday. Let’s hope it is a cracking final, regardless of the outcome; BCT Rovers Tigers United to be 2018 Men’s A Provincial Champions.
KEITH MILLAR B CUP FINAL:
Vancouver Strikers (VMSL) v Coquitlam Metro Ford Lupi (VMSL)
[Saturday May 12 – Burnaby Lake West Field 1 – 5.30pm kick off]
The 24 team field has now been reduced to a mere two. Absent of the administrative issues and protests that have marred it’s big brother tournament in the A Cup, the B Cup has instead provided some great football and some equally compelling story lines.
For the third straight season the Keith Millar Cup will be an all VMSL affair with the trophy awarded to a team from the league for the fourth consecutive year. The odds certainly did not favour this outcome when Vancouver Strikers were the lone representative for the league in the top half of the bracket, but yet, here we are.
Coquitlam Metro Ford Lupi are the powerhouse favourites in this one, having won the VMSL’s Division 2A as well as the Division 2 Cup. In fact CMF have only been beaten by one team all season and that will not change regardless of the outcome in this one, as their sole loss of the campaign was at the hands of none other than Vancouver Strikers.
Strikers finished in third place in the league, 12 points back of Lupi, but Saturday October 21st brought an unwelcome trip to Jericho Turf for the Tri Cities boys when they were dispatched 2-0 in one of their few defeats since the team formed in Division 3 last season. Lupi proved that Strikers were no bogey team, however, as they won the reverse fixture 2-1, despite having to play it in Vancouver as well, this time at Memorial in March.
Both of these teams have needed only three wins to get to the final with Metro Ford earning the VMSL’s bye in the tournament based on their League and Cup double, while Strikers were handed safe passage when Saanich Fusion could not be bothered to make the trip to the mainland for their date at Point Grey in the opening round.
After that though, you certainly cannot accuse Strikers of being handed an easy draw. They had to trek across the Valley to play the FVSL’s League and Cup double winners in Abbotsford and then were handed the Richmond League Champions, West Coast, away again. After that, their semi-final was against VISL Division 3A winner Powell River Villa. It was a close match, but Strikers found the winning goal late and might just have been helped by not having to travel up the Sunshine Coast as was the case for the Island Champion’s previous opponents.
All three wins for Strikers came by 2-1 margins, so clearly they are comfortable in tight games and have the pedigree to find another gear when necessary. The problem that the Vancouver boys face is that, in their current form, two goals would seem unlikely to be enough to knock off Lupi.
Strikers do boast the VMSL’s leading goal scorer in Gavin Lytton, who had 17 tallies in 20 games to win the Golden Boot, but Metro Ford have the league’s second leading scorer, Eric Dove, who netted 14 times. They also have a supporting cast that includes Dalibor Plavsic, who scored 10 times during the season, and Moreno Zanetti who slotted an additional seven. Strikers next highest goal scorer was Will McKnight, with six goals.
These two teams finished as the top two scoring sides in their division as Strikers had an impressive 54 goals for, but were well eclipsed by Metro Ford who finished on 61; which likely goes part of the way to explaining why it is them who will be playing in Division 1 next season while the Vancouver club will be back for another campaign in Division 2.
Coquitlam’s free scoring ways have continued into this tournament as they put up 15 goals over their three games. Their draw was slightly easier on paper than that of their opponent, having to face only one league champion in BMSL League Champions, and winners of both their domestic cups, Impero Calcio, whom they met in the semi finals. The Tri-Cities boys looked to be in control from start to finish in that one, winning comfortably 4-2.
So too was the case in their quarter-final where they dominated a strong All Blacks side with an impressive pedigree in this competition, running out 5-1 winners. Indeed their trickiest fixture may have been their opener against Mission when they conceded the opening goal before levelling things, only to have a player sent off. Though, despite having only 10 men for half of the game, they still put up six goals in a 6-2 victory.
Clearly Coquitlam are the cream of the crop at this level, however, this cup may be their one and only chance at Provincial glory. While it is clear they are deserving of their promotion to Division 1, they will never be able to climb all the way to Premier because CMF as a club already have a team at that level. This means their only chance to play on the Provincial stage again will be via an impressive, although highly unlikely, run to the Imperial Cup final.
What that means in the bigger picture for this group as a whole is uncertain. This team was created by a group of friends who had come up through the Metro Ford system, but felt frozen out by their flagship team. With the top side struggling this campaign and missing the A Cup for the first time in recent memory, it is quite possible that they will be looking to retool in the off season and the top players from this group might be targets. While they will of course want to be loyal to this side that they have risen through the ranks with, if they harbour genuine ambitions to play at the highest level, this may be their best opportunity to move because, as mentioned, Lupi cannot reach that level of their own volition. Therefore, this may just be this group’s crowning achievement, should they pull it off.
Their trend of scoring one goal less in each round up until now points to them scoring three in the final and, given Strikers penchant for only hitting the back of the net twice per game, that should do the trick for the soon-to-be Division 1 side. The Vancouver boys have proven in this tournament that they can beat anyone and claiming the scalps of three league champions in a row is an impressive feat.
Strikers will be looking to emulate last season’s B Cup winner, Vancouver Greencaps, who had a disappointing season last year finishing outside the promotion race but kicked on to a Provincial title before returning to the VMSL and winning Division 2B and the accompanying promotion this season. It will be a tall order though, as Lupi have proven at every turn to be the class of this level. I am betting on lightning striking only once this year and Coquitlam Metro Ford Lupi winning the treble as Keith Millar Cup Champions.
DERYL HUGHES MASTERS A CUP FINAL:
EDC Burnaby (VMSL) v Westside FC (VMSL)
[Saturday May 12 – Burnaby Lake West Field 3 – 5.00pm kick off]
It will be a tenth straight championship for the VMSL at the Masters Over 35 level, as they will make it a decade of dominance in the Deryl Hughes Cup. In fact, for the fourth straight season it will be an all-VMSL final.
Absent from this season’s showpiece event are Croatia who have played in, and lost, the last three finals in a row. Also missing are two time defending champions, Coquitlam Metro Ford, who were halted in their bid for a three-peat by EDC in the semi final. There was not much to choose between the two sides with neither team being able to find the breakthrough over the 90 minutes, nor in the extra 30 minutes of extra time that were played. Instead Chile came out on the right end of the shootout lottery to book their place in this final.
This is the Burnaby side’s first season at this level and they have already won the VMSL’s Masters Cup. Being crowned Provincial Champions at the first time of asking would be a remarkable accomplishment, though just reaching the final in their inaugural year is quite the impressive feat. While they may not have played at this level previously, the stage is not likely to overawe them as much of the EDC team would have been involved with the club when they won the Men’s Provincial A Cup in 2015.
That same year, Westside were winning their third Masters Provincial Cup, to go with their wins in 2010 and 2012. Three titles ties the record for championships in this tournament since it’s inception in 2000, with Firefighters and Columbus also having won the trophy on three occasions. Impressively, Westside has accomplished this while having relatively little turnover; with many of the same players that were involved with the squad during their first title back in 2010 now looking for their record fourth championship.
So experience clearly favours the Vancouver boys, however, youth will be on Chile’s side and, at this level, that can play a huge role. Chile should also be relatively fresh; with the tournament contracting to only 12 teams for this season, and Chile receiving a bye thanks being VMSL Cup Champions, they have only had to win two games to reach the final. The draw was kind to them as they got to host an understaffed UVic Alumni team in their opening game, who they cruised past 4-0. As mentioned, Metro Ford was much more of a battle, but they were able to advance on penalties despite not being able to score in that one.
While they only had to play one extra game compared to EDC, at their age, that has seemingly taken its toll on the Westsiders. Among other knocks and twists, they lost their long time stalwart goalkeeper Mike Wicken to a shoulder injury just minutes into their Preliminary Round game against a tough North Delta side. The Vancouver boys were able to stake themselves to an early 2-0 lead before hanging on to win 2-1 anchored by stand-in keeper Marty Best.
Bestie, as he is known, just returned to the Westside fold this season after plying his trade recently with West Van. Perhaps it looked a dodgy move when West Van went on to romp to the VMSL title this season, however, if Westside can lock up the Provincial title I am sure he will feel that his decision was, without question, the correct one.
Their depleted squad then had to travel to Duncan to face the VISL Champions, Cowichan FC. If anyone doubted the pedigree of the Vancouver boys, they put down a marker in this one, pulling off the smash and grab to get out of dodge with a 1-0 win, despite being arguably outplayed in hostile territory. Back on the mainland they had a tricky test in their semi-final against a young, keen Temple side from the FVSL.
Their task was made all the more difficult when their talisman in the midfield, the man they call Dancin’ Bear, Keith Moore, went down with what looked to be a hamstring injury early in that match. Westside were in fine form however, as they took the lead and were creating so many chances that it just seemed it would simply be a matter of time before they were out of sight. Instead, they conceded a penalty and looked to be perhaps letting this one slip away before they rescued themselves with a pair of late goals for a 3-1 win. Top scorer Simon Heald had the opener and the game winner in the semi to go along with the 10 goals that he clattered in during the league campaign and Westside will surely need more from him if they are to win this final, especially as the supporting cast seemingly dwindles around him.
Chile are not exactly prolific goal scorers, only registering 29 over the 18 game season, which was likely a contributing factor to their sixth place finish, putting them in the bottom half of the table. They do boast quality goalkeeping and defending however, which really becomes a factor in knockout play and they have not been scored on in this tournament so far. They also only conceded only two goals during their run to the VMSL Masters Cup title, including clean sheets in both the final against PCOV as well as in the semi final, a 1-0 win over Westside.
The Burnaby boys also play with a bit of a chip on their shoulder after being dismissed as the new kids on the block this year by the staunch old boys club mentality of the established teams in the VMSL’s Masters Premier division. That attitude particularly came to light in that semi-final triumph as it was clear how much that victory meant to EDC. Surely a win in this game and this tournament would be worth even more to them, so expect a brash Chile side lining up for this one.
Westside certainly are not afraid of anyone, though, and they had the better of EDC in league play; welcoming them to the league in the first game of the season by handing them a 2-1 loss and then following that up with a clinical 5-0 drubbing in the reverse fixture.
Clearly both sides have the ability to win this game and this title so it should be a cracking final. This Westside group have made a habit of winning in knockout football and they certainly do not lose many finals, but one has to wonder just how long they can continue to tape this thing together. Missing so many key bodies against a young, fresh, eager Chile team might just be the tipping point. This one is almost too close to call, but, based on health alone, I will have to tip EDC to add a new name to the Deryl Hughes Masters Cup.
DOUG DAY U21 CUP FINAL:
Abbotsford SA Storm (FVSL) v West Van FC (VMSL)
[Saturday May 12 – Burnaby Lake West Field 3 – 11.00am kick off]
It is champion against champion in the U21 Provincial Final with FVSL league and cup double winners Abbotsford taking on the cup champions, and league runners up by a single point, West Van from the VMSL.
The Doug Day Cup is one trophy that has spent some decent time in the FVSL’s possession as a powerhouse Port Moody Gunners side flew the flag for the league, winning the title in 2007, 2009 and 2012. That has to be considered a dynasty at this level, albeit the players would have turned over from that first championship winning side to the last, but it is clearly a testament to the program that was being run in the Tri-Cities during those years.
Since that 2012 win, however, it has been, you guessed it, a period of VMSL dominance, as they have won the trophy in every season since then. It has been an all-VMSL final for the past four years so Abbotsford have already crashed the party just by reaching this stage. Seeing off VMSL teams has yet to be a problem in this competition for the Valley side as both their previous fixtures in the tournament came against teams from the “big” league.
They had little trouble with free scoring EDC, knocking them off 6-2, as the Burnaby side was made to pay dearly for their porous defence, a trait that cost them during their domestic campaign as well; conceding the most goals of any of the VMSL entrants to this competition.
In their semi final Abby welcomed the Rovers Tigers young guns to the Valley and saw them off 2-0. This entire Provincial Cup season has been marred by controversy and discipline proceedings, particularly in the A Cup, but the kids have gotten involved as well. The semi-final had to be abandoned before the final whistle when Rovers could no longer contain themselves and their disdain for the officiating. They had earlier had their goalkeeper sent off and when things boiled over again late in the match, the Surrey boys received an additional two red cards before their coaching staff lost control, along with their remaining players.
BC Soccer reviewed the incident but quickly determined that the extracurricular activities had no effect on the integrity of the game and the scoreline would stand as is; though I imagine some lengthy suspensions might be pending and perhaps one or two harsh life lessons for the Rovers kids.
West Van are no stranger to administrative controversy which, as mentioned, seems to be the flavour of the month for this years competitions. Their opening round match against Faly Academy was delayed until a ruling could be given by a BC Soccer official. Evidently Faly wanted the coach of the West Van side, who plays for another team in West Van’s club and was suspended in VMSL League play, to be deemed ineligible to participate as a team official and barred from the sidelines due to his league suspension. Rational heads prevailed however, and he was able to play his role in leading the North Shore side to a 3-1 win over their VMSL rivals and the team they had defeated mere weeks earlier to win the VMSL’s U21 Cup.
They then knocked off the team that narrowly pipped them to the league title, Coquitlam Metro Ford, in their semi-final, finding the extra bit of quality necessary for a 1-0 win.
Obviously, being in different leagues, it is difficult to gauge these sides in a head to head. This is Abby’s first time on this stage though and the FVSL only featured six teams, two of which were well off the pace. Disparity in the league is not uncommon at the U21 level, and certainly West Van also benefited from padding the stats against two or three of the lower sides in the VMSL’s U21 table. However, that still left six or seven decent side to push the Amblesiders and while Abby have certainly risen to the challenge and defeated good VMSL sides in this tournament already, they were the fourth and fifth placed finishers.
West Van, meanwhile, has beaten the first and third placed sides, teams they battled against all season and the experience gained in those sorts of games should give them an edge in this final.
Similar to the Port Moody program that was discussed earlier, being a dynasty for roughly a decade from the mid-2000s, this West Van U21 program looks to be the cream of the crop over recent times. They were Provincial Champions in 2015 and then left to play in the FVSL Premier division in 2016. The program was reborn last season and they were Provincial Cup runners up. Now they are back in the final this year, with no doubt a decent number of returnees who are looking to put things right after the way their previous campaign ended.
West Van have the pedigree and I think that will be the distance here. Abbotsford are certainly worthy finalists and are of course capable of bringing the trophy back to the FVSL after a six year hiatus, but West Van have to be the favourites in this one.
The other men’s final is being contested for the first time. A new Masters B Cup was introduced this year and the inaugural final will be played out between Wanderers from the BMSL and VISL side Cordova Bay Bobcats. That final will kick off at 2.00pm on Saturday at Burnaby Lake Field 3.
Two of the women’s finals will also be played at Burnaby Lake on Saturday afternoon. Coquitlam Metro Ford Royals take on Poco FC Synergy in the Classics final at 11.30am, and Lakehill Reds take on Surrey FC Pegasus in the Women’s B final at 2.30pm. Both of those games will take place on Field 1.
The Women’s A Cup final takes place at Swangard on Sunday afternoon. NSGSC Renegades take on Surrey United with a noon kick off.
Get out and take in some of the action if you can. It’s going to be a fantastic weekend for it.