A 3-2 game might normally signify a straight offence-oriented style of play, but not in the case of Cowichan LMG Pringle and the Saanich Fusion.
The two Div. 1 Island Soccer League powerhouses clashed at the Ladysmith Turf Saturday, with Cowichan coming out on top of the five goals shared between the teams.
Cowichan thus ran the table in the first round with nine straight wins. The team went 8-1 over the first nine last year, making it 17-1 overall to start the last two seasons.
Cowichan knew it had to be in top form against the Fusion that also came into the game undefeated.
The teams jockeyed for position in the midfield and made the scoring chances count.
“We didn’t generate many chances — maybe five and put three away,” said Cowichan coach Glen Martin.
“To pull it out was really good. They didn’t really push hard at the end. There was no scare to tie it.”
Cowichan vaulted into a 2-0 lead on two beautiful goals a few minutes apart.
Riley Taiji started the play on the first goal, getting the ball to Chris Arnett who sent a cross to brother Matt Arnett for a clinical left-foot finish. Jesse Winter struck on a header shortly after off a Tyler Hughes set piece.
Cowichan had a big opportunity to put Saanich away early, but couldn’t sustain the momentum.
“We did have a bit of a lull after that,” said Martin. “We took a couple of stupid fouls in our own end.”
Saanich maintained play in the Cowichan end from the fouls and eventually wound up cutting the margin to 2-1 at the half.
Saanich came all the way back to equalize on a weird goal in the second half. A shot went over goalkeeper Joel Wilson’s head, hit the crossbar and landed right at the feet of an attacker for a goal.
It stayed that way until the 67th minute when Cowichan put its set piece magic to work. Hughes landed a free kick in the perfect place for Bram Taylor’s header that proved to be the game-winner.
Cowichan held Saanich’s high-scoring duo of Cooper Barry and Patrick Nelson in check without any dangerous opportunities.
Saanich picked up a red card in the last few minutes and Cowichan played out the clock.
The game was every bit as tough as Martin expected in the final analysis.
“They hung in there,” he said. “I give them credit for that.”
Kevan Brown played his last game for the team for a while. He’s taken employment in Alberta.
Martin has already filled the void from his absence by signing Dan Cato, a Vancouver Island University student who will be available for the Gorge game in two weeks. Martin also has a line on signing Sam Beswick, who played for Gordon Head the last three years but is now living in Duncan.
Cowichan plays its first road game of the season Friday night at Victoria’s Royal Athletic Park against Bays United Liquor Plus, the division’s other top team.
Martin said it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.
“They’re a turf team. We’re a grass team,” he said.
Div. 2 Cowichan United played its best game of the season, according to coach Neall Rowlings, but still lost 2-0 to first-place Lakehill United.
“We did everything right with the exception of scoring goals,” noted Rowlings. “We pressured early with our young, fast, fit team and they scored on a counterattack with a perfect touch and a perfect finish.”
From that point at about 25 minutes, Lakehill played cautiously. Cowichan pressed and had some chances, including a header by Jorden Korven that nearly resulted in a goal.
Lakehill scored its second goal on a counterattack with Cowichan pressing.
Darian Achurch made a breakaway save late in the game.