Okanagan FC coach Andrew Stevenson is willing to enjoy his team’s success this year, but expects it won’t settle for a first-round playoff loss next summer.
OFC lost 2-1 to league-leading Highlanders in Victoria on Saturday in Pacific Coast Soccer League playoff action.
Okanagan led 1-0 at halftime, but allowed Victoria to score twice in a two-minute span just after the restart to defend its home turf.
“Victoria are a bit of a beast at home,” Stevenson said.
And that’s not just because of all the yelling and screaming coming from the home side’s locker-room at the break.
Victoria was hosting the four-team playoff tournament and finished first in the league, 10 points clear of expansion OFC.
But the Okanagan representatives pressed the Highlanders early, and it worked.
Randy Hubber, who led OFC with six goals this season, charged down the right wing and sent a dangerous cross at the Victoria net.
It handcuffed a defender who deflected it past his goalkeeper for an own goal about 10 minutes before halftime.
The play nearly worked again in the minutes following the goal, Stevenson said.
The coach credits a change in tactics — playing with three forwards, two of them attacking wingers — for an exceptional first half.
He also credited goalie Carson Murray and midfielder Jorge Angel-Mira for dictating play.
Unfortunately for the newcomers, the Highlanders responded.
Stevenson said OFC knew they were on the right track when, after returning to their dressing room for halftime, they could hear Victoria’s coach shouting at his players.
It seemed to work.
“They grew into the game,” Stevenson said.
Victoria scored twice in a two-minute space beginning in the 51st minute.
OFC tried to press in response but ran out of time. Again, Stevenson said he took it as a sign of respect when Victoria’s players started running the ball into the corners in an effort to kill the clock.
There they were, the league champs with a boistrous crowd on their side, opting not to attack but instead defend to avoid a letdown with 15 minutes still to play.
“They played a fantastic game,” Stevenson said of his club. “But we’re not going to be happy with this performance next season. We want to be challenging for titles.”
SPOT KICKS — Victoria’s PCSL team is a reserve squad for the Highlanders’ USL League Two team. USL2 has 11 divisions in four conferences across the continent. Victoria’s USL2 team finished fourth in the Northwest Division, 10 points behind Calgary Foothills FC. ... FC Tigers Vancouver won the PCSL title in penalty kicks. Victoria led 3-0 early, but couldn’t keep Tigers at bay.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org * Follow @da_trif on Twitter