Glen Martin has coached a lot of soccer, including more than a dozen years at the top level of the Vancouver Island Soccer League, but his team’s 3-1 loss in the Jackson Cup semifinals on Saturday just might be an all-time low.
“For me as a coach, it probably ranks as the worst game we’ve lost, ever,” Martin said about Cowichan LMG’s defeat at the hands of Gorge. “I can’t remember a bigger loss than that.”
Playing on their home turf, Cowichan dominated the early going and held a 1-0 lead late in the first half, but ended up on the losing end of the score. Gorge didn’t look like giant-slayers in the early going, but once they pulled ahead, they didn’t look back.
“We took our foot off their throat and helped them up off the ground,” Martin said.
Steve Scott scored the all-important first goal of the game in the 36th minute. Until then, Cowichan had controlled every aspect of the game.
“They hadn’t even been in our end,” Martin noted. “Then, in a 20-minute period, they were up 2-1, and we couldn’t recover from it.”
Gorge tied the score shortly after Scott’s goal, then took the lead on a penalty shot after Cowichan goalkeeper Darian Achurch took a player down in the box following a bad defensive play.
“That was all it took to get their confidence going,” Martin said. “We had that team down and out, and we let them off the hook, for sure.”
Under immense pressure, Cowichan put everything into tying the score over the final 45 minutes.
“In the second half, we were pushing, pushing, pushing,” Martin said. “You do that, it’s either going to be 2-2 or 3-1. We came at them in waves, but the quality wasn’t good. We kicked the ball at their goalie probably 20 times.”
Goal-scorer Scott set a tone on Saturday that Martin wished the rest of the team had followed.
“To me, he was our best player,” the coach said. “If everybody played as hard as he did, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Other players who stepped up in the loss included Kevan Brown, Colin Knight, and Govinda Innes off the bench.
Prior to Saturday’s game, Gorge’s season appeared to be over. They had finished fifth in the Div. 1 standings, and could only earn a provincial championship berth by reaching the Jackson Cup semifinals.
“We saved their season,” Martin said.
Cowichan had played in seven of the previous eight Jackson Cup finals, winning five times. Martin wasn’t ready for this year’s tournament to be over.
“We have five guys who have never played in a Jackson Cup final,” he said. “It would have been nice for those guys. You can talk about coming back next year, but you don’t know what you’re gonna get next year.”
Even Cowichan’s two Jackson Cup final losses didn’t sting as much as Saturday’s defeat, having both come in overtime against arguably stronger, more motivated squads. The closest comparison Martin could come up with was a loss to Estrella de Chile FC from Burnaby in the 2015 provincial semifinals. EDC tied the score at 1-1 in injury time, then went on to win on penalty kicks.
“That was the most heartbreaking loss ever,” Martin said. “This was the worst loss, as far as team play.”
If there is a silver lining, it is that Cowichan has a history of recovering from untimely exits from cup play.
“Last time we lost a Jackson Cup game, other than the final, we went to the provincial semifinal,” Martin pointed out. “That’s one positive we can take out of this.”
That was in 2013, when LMG lost to Bays United in a play-in game that ended up featuring the two tournament favourites that year. Bays went on to win the cup.
Gorge will face Lakehill in the Jackson Cup final on March 25. As Div. 1 champions, Cowichan has already qualified for the provincial tournament, the draw for which will be held on March 26, so Martin’s team will have to refocus quickly. As a seeded team, Cowichan is guaranteed to at least open the tournament with a home game.
“We need to have a short memory,” Martin said.