A wonderful solo goal from attacking “menace” Zach Verhoven and another fantastic goalkeeping display from Andrew Hicks earned ten man TSS FC Rovers a point in a 1-1 draw with Portland Timbers at Swangard Stadium on Friday night.
It’s been something of an up and down inaugural PDL season for an injury-ravaged TSS Rovers squad, but the one thing you certainly can’t question about the team is their fighting spirit and that was to the fore against the Timbers.
After a first half to quickly forget for the Rovers, that saw them go down to ten men and trail to a 44th minute Francesco Amorosino goal, it looked a long road back for the TSS lads, but they regrouped and looked the better team for spells of the second half, with their play belying the man disadvantage.
It took a moment of magic from Verhoven to grab a share of the points on the night, with a great run and finish into the bottom corner with 13 minutes of the match remaining, and head coach Colin Elmes was delighted by his team’s heart and fight to come away with something from the game and maintain the club’s unbeaten home record.
“Impressed with the guys,” Elmes told AFTN after the match. “The dressing room was pretty quiet at half time, and we were like, okay, what kind of response are we going to get here. But as the old saying goes, you bend but you don’t break. We knew that we were going to get two or three pokes at it in the second half.”
And they did, with Verhoven’s finish the pinnacle of those pokes.
Zach Verhoven, take a bow. 👏
— USL PDL (@USLPDL) June 3, 2017
“Verhoven is a menace when he gets one v one,” Elmes said of his winger. “He got himself off the left side here, cut across the top of the penalty area and what a finish. Fantastic. Fantastic. He’s the sort of guy that will not be visible for chunks of the game and then suddenly pop up and do something like that.”
That goal lit a fire under Portland who took the game to TSS for the remainder of the match, launching wave after wave of attacks, but despite the Rovers team being drained from playing the last hour one man down, they managed to keep their composure and hold on for the draw.
“After the goal it was just batten down the hatches and try and solve problems,” Elmes admitted. “But they guys stayed at it. They kept their shape. When we were 1-0 down the clock was just racing along, then as soon as we levelled it was [never ending]. Then at the end there, it was anywhere will do.”
It had been hard for the TSS attack to get much going for most of the match, and it wasn’t helped by losing three starters within the space of a minute around the half hour mark of the first half.
First the Rovers made a double substitution, replacing the influential Connor Hildebrandt, who had a knock, and striker Kristian Yli-Hietanen, who was having a rough time of it out there with his hold up play. A minute later, Marcello Polisi saw red, picking up his second booking in his PDL debut, after lashing out at the Timbers’ Christo Michaelson following a challenge.
You felt Verhoven was the likely key is TSS were going to be back level. More importantly though was the play of Andrew Hicks at the other end of the park, with the Rovers keeper coming up with nine huge saves on the night, including a 26th penalty save from Steven Dal Molin.
TSS were looking like they could grab a shock winner, but Verhoven was soon substituted after the goal, and with that the Rovers’ attack was all but gone, with the ten men just happy to see the game out for a point and Portland will head home wondering how they didn’t come away with all three.
“To be perfectly honest with you, I know they needed to threaten us more, but that’s a good team,” Elmes said. “They were spraying the ball around quite effectively, trying to find overloads and stuff. Clearly Hicks had to come up big with a couple of shots from distance and some stuff that was close in as well.
“Our goalkeeper continues to be one of our top players, and we needed him today. When you’ve got ten, and you snatch back the levelling goal there, I think there’s a natural reaction to sort of recoil a little bit and go, okay, we’ve got our point. The guys at half time were talking about how we were unbeaten at home and we said, you need to go and fix that problem.”
And fix it they did.
It was a battling team performance, but once again the play of Hicks and Verhoven stood out, with both players continuing to put themselves in the shop window. They’ll get a further chance to do that when the Whitecaps Residency head to Swangard on Sunday (5pm kick off. Get your tickets at HERE) for a friendly.
With the ‘Caps coaching staff in attendance, it’s a great opportunity for a lot of these Rovers players to show they deserve to play at the higher level, whether that be with the Whitecaps, the Canadian Premier League, or wherever.
“We keep saying to this whole squad that this is a platform for the CPL,” Elmes told us. “The players that at least start in that league, once it gets put together, are going to be players that come from these environments.
“This is your opportunity. We’ve set this up for you and we’re going to steer you the best that we can, but the reality is it’s you that needs to put as good a foot forward as best as you can, as someone who puts yourself on the radar once that whole things starts.”