The Cowichan Craig Street 49ers’ hotly anticipated showdown with Masters A soccer rivals Gorge Backfit didn’t really solve anything.
The teams went into last Sunday’s match, rescheduled from earlier in the season, tied atop the standings, with identical records, right down to their goal differentials. The clubs’ second meeting of the season was supposed to give one of them the upper hand going into the Christmas break. So of course, they played to a tie.
The game against Gorge was Cowichan’s second on a busy weekend, coming after a 3-2 win over Peninsula’s Masters B team at Blue Heron Park on Friday.
Peninsula opted to spend 85 of 90 minutes defending, which 49ers coach Kevin James admitted he would have done too, if he had been coaching against Cowichan. The 49ers dominated in terms of possession, and went ahead 2-0 on goals by Stu Barker and Daryl Rodgers. Peninsula took advantage of a Cowichan error and made it 2-1 before halftime, then tied the score with 10 minutes left in the game. George Thomas finally restored the 49ers’ lead with a shot from about 25 yards out in the 87th minute.
James was impressed with the performance by Peninsula, who sit near the bottom of the Masters B standings.
“I give them full marks,” he said. “They did what they needed to do. They looked for opportunities on our mistakes. We made two mistakes and they capitalized on them.”
Cowichan was missing a few players with injuries from Friday’s match, including Thomas, when they squared off against Gorge at Hampton Park on Sunday. True to expectations, the game was fairly even.
“If you asked them, they’d probably say they had the majority of the play,” James said. “I’m confident we had the majority of the play.”
It was also a clean game, which is worth pointing out when compared to previous meetings between Cowichan and Gorge.
“I think there were 12 cards in the last game we played them,” James said. “I think there were two this time.”
Neall Rowlings scored Cowichan’s goal on a deflection with about 20 minutes to go in the first half. Gorge took advantage of a 49ers miscue to tie the game with about three minutes remaining.
“It was a good battle between two evenly matched teams,” James said. “They got a lucky break on their goal, and we got a lucky break on ours. They deserved the point as well as we did.”
Former Cowichan LMG Div. 1 star Tyler Hughes got into his first game of the season for the 49ers, playing 45 minutes before he had to leave to coach a U21 match.
Thanks to the tie, the top positions in the Masters A division remain in play, and Gorge still has to play third-place UVic Alumni, a match that will have huge implications. The best-case scenario for Cowichan in that game would be either a UVic win or a tie, which would put the 49ers’ destiny in their own hands. Should Gorge win, Cowichan would have to hope for them to lose to a Masters B team at some point later in the season.
The 49ers are off until Jan. 19, although James will be coaching the VISL entry in the all-star game between the Island and Fraser Valley leagues on Jan. 6, with six or seven Cowichan players likely to be included as well.