It will be at least one more year before Cowichan LMG can call themselves B.C. champions.
Despite being the dominant senior men’s soccer team on Vancouver Island over the last six years, a provincial championship has proven elusive.
The 2016 provincial tournament came to an end for Cowichan on Saturday with a 2-1 overtime loss at the hands of Vancouver club Croatia SC at David Williams Turf. The defeat in the provincial quarter-finals was only the second all year for LMG, who won the Vancouver Island Soccer League title at Jackson Cup.
“We were at home, we’re the top team in the Island, that’s our game,” Cowichan coach Glen Martin said. “We’ve got to win that one, and we gave it away.”
In hindsight, Martin said his team should have settled back and defended after going up 1-0. They didn’t, however, and chose to push for a second goal.
“We went for 2-0 and didn’t get it,” Martin lamented. “They had to come at us, and of course they did.”
Cowichan dominated the first half of the game, generating at least four solid scoring opportunities in the opening 30 minutes that they were unable to put away.
“The best soccer we played was in the first half,” Martin said. “Without a doubt, that was our best soccer. Unfortunately, we didn’t take our chances when we needed to. We have the goal-scorers, and they didn’t get it.”
Those missed opportunities came back to haunt the team.
“You have to put those away,” Martin said. “It’s unusual to get that many chances against a Vancouver team in the first half, let alone a whole game. In the first 30 minutes, the game should have been over.”
It was a different story in the second half as the game opened up and Croatia out-chanced Cowichan.
“They were a different team from the first half to the second half,” Martin said. “They played really well from the second half on. We spent a lot of energy in the first half. I think that caught up to us in the second half.”
Cowichan got on the board first when Keevan Webb buried the ball off a corner kick in the 79th minute.
Croatia tied the score with four minutes to play. The visitors appeared to score a second goal soon after, but it was called back on an offside. Tied after 90 minutes, the game went to two 15-minute overtime sessions, and Croatia scored the actual go-ahead marker in the 102nd minute. Cowichan turned it on at that point, but it was too late.
“We didn’t play well until we were down 2-1,” Martin said.
Croatia, who won the B.C. title in 2014 and finished fifth in the strong Vancouver league this year, provided the biggest test Cowichan faced in the 2015-16 season.
“They were the hardest team we’ve played all year,” Martin admitted. “The toughest competition’s always at the end of the year. If you want to win the B.C. championships, that’s the kind of team you have to beat.”
Martin saluted his players and their allegiance to the team, with several making multiple round trips from Victoria or Nanaimo each week to practice and play.
“I felt bad for the players,” the coach said. “They’ve been so dedicated all year. It’s the most committed team I’ve ever coached.”
Martin also expressed his gratitude to the fans, many of whom follow the team around the Island, and sponsors.
“We have the best fans in the league by far,” he said.
This season might be finished, but Cowichan’s quest for a provincial title is far from over.
“Hopefully we’ll get most of the guys back and give it another go,”