TSS Rovers have five games remaining in their inaugural PDL season, as they get set to welcome Victoria Highlanders to Swangard Stadium for a Juan de Fuca plate double header on Friday and Sunday.
This first year has certainly been a mixed one for the Rovers on the pitch, with a lot of learning off it. The team are still unbeaten at home, after four league matches and a friendly win against Whitecaps U18s, and supporters have been extremely positive on the gameday experience.
There’s been some great individual performances (Andrew Hicks and Zach Verhoven instantly spring to mind), some struggles, a points deduction for fielding an ineligible player, and a lot of experience gained in how to do things better in their second season.
But one thing which hasn’t come as a surprise to TSS head coach Colin Elmes is just how tough the play has been in the PDL Northwest Division.
“Everybody in this Division just continues to take points off everybody else,” Elmes told AFTN. “That’s why when we came into this back in January and we met all the people that are in our section, they said that this is the best division in the PDL in the country, and it’s because it’s so competitive. “
As things currently stand, Rovers sit bottom of the Division. They’d be a place higher without the points deduction. Calgary Foothills lead the way in their search for back to back titles and another trip to the PDL Championship game, with four points separating the top three sides with six games remaining for each.
Calgary currently sit on 17 points from their eight matches, four ahead of both Sounders U23 and Portland Timbers U23. Even Lane United aren’t out of it in fourth spot, seven points back, nor the Highlanders, who only sit on three points but have three games in hand on the leading pack.
Foothills host the Sounders in two games this weekend, which could go a long way to deciding who will win the Division. TSS may also have a big say in that, with a home and away game against Seattle themselves. And while the Rovers may be out of title contention themselves, they’re determined to play a big role in the season run in.
“Obviously Calgary’s run off with a bit of a lead here,” Elmes said. “But the ball’s going to bounce negatively for them at some point. I would suggest that they’ve had it pretty good so far. A few comebacks on their part, and some very late goals to win games, which you clearly have to give them credit for.
“But at some point in a 14 game schedule that’s probably going to spin on them a little bit, and then Seattle and Portland will probably get a little bit closer to them pointwise. I think this will go right down to the wire, as it has done in the past. We’re clearly not going to be challenging for those top spots, but we’re going to make it as difficult as possible for the teams that come in here.”
The quirks of the PDL schedule sees TSS face only two teams in these remaining weeks – three against the Highlanders and two against the Sounders. Their season wraps up on July 12 at home to Seattle.
It’s been a tough time for TSS in terms of missing players this year already. Injuries, suspensions, and paperwork have taken their toll, and although they welcomed Ryan Dhillon and Connor MacMillan back for their draw last Friday with Portland, they have new injuries and the absence of their UBC Thunderbird players, who are heading to China for the second World Elite University Football Tournament in Beijing, to contend with now.
“We’ve got three more home games and two on the road,” Elmes added. “One of them is over in Victoria, so it is a road trip but it’s not a road trip like we’ve been through over the last little while. We’ve got some work to do again here. We’ve got some players back [from injury] but we’ve lost Mamadi [Camara] for the rest of the season unfortunately.
“We are going to lose our UBC players here this coming week for three games. They’ll be back for the July 9 and 12 fixtures. I think they’re back from China on the 3rd, so they’ll get some training in as well and get over their jetlag and stuff. So we’re going to be down to 16 guys on the bench again.”
But there’s still a chance for TSS Rovers to lift some silverware this season, with the Juan de Fuca Plate being on the line in the matches with the Highlanders.
This will be the fourth time the Plate has been contested for, and the first time TSS and Victoria have battled each other for it. Elmes will be letting his team know more about the history of the Plate this week and says his Rovers side will be ready and looking forward to lifting it this weekend.
“It’s a supporters created trophy,” Elmes told us. “I know it was initially attached to the old ‘Caps PDL and the Highlanders playing against each other. Some of the guys will know about it because they’re on social media and stuff, but we’ve not talked to them about it [yet]. We’re just managing this thing game by game.
“As they say, “Guard The Swan”, so that’s going to be an interesting battle. I’ve known Dave Dew for probably 30 years. Both him and I have been around this game locally for quite a while. They’ll be motivated and ready. They’ve only played four games, and four of them at home. They’re unfortunately going to have to go and taste the nastiness of travelling to Salem and Calgary as well. It’s not going to be easy for them.
“It’s going to be a physical battle for sure. We’ll get the guys ready. We know the style of play that they’ve sort of adhered to so far, as we’ve watched some of the streams. We’ll prepare the guys to deal with what they’re going to bring here on Friday.”
Friday’s game will be the PDL Game of the Week. AFTN’s commentary team will be presenting the game as always, and you can watch the stream HERE. Better still, get along in person! Tickets cost $10 ($7 for children) and will be available on the day or beforehand at TSSRovers.com. Head along and help the Rovers #DefendTheSwan.