The Cowichan Steelheads opened the 2018-19 season with a loss to SFFC Forest on the Sherman Road turf on Saturday. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

The Cowichan Steelheads opened the 2018-19 season with a loss to SFFC Forest on the Sherman Road turf on Saturday. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Masters soccer gets underway for Cowichan teams

49ers win big, Steelheads drop opener

The Cowichan 49ers’ first game of the masters soccer season looked very familiar.

The two-time defending Tony Grover Cup champions got off to a slow start in the match against SFFC Internationals on Saturday evening, but when the final whistle sounded, they put a 7-0 victory in the books.

“It was typical Cowichan 49ers, starting out slow in the first half,” head coach Kevin James said. “The second half was better. We started to kick the ball around better. There was lots of rust to shake off, but that’s to be expected.”

Stu Barker had told James that he wanted to kick his game up a notch this season, and he did just that on Saturday, scoring five of his team’s goals.

“He finished his chances,” James said. “Those are the things we need.”

Sebastian Titone and Richard Lord also scored for Cowichan, and Rob McIntyre earned the shutout in net. McIntyre didn’t get a lot of work, but as a former goalie, James knows that’s a dangerous position to be in.

“Those are the games where you don’t want to give up a goal,” he said. “You can’t afford to have a mental lapse, or it will hurt you.”

The 49ers also played a McGavin Cup game on Wednesday against Gorge’s Div. 1 team, the defending Jackson Cup and McGavin Cup champions, and lost 5-1. Barker scored Cowichan’s lone goal.

Against a team James readily admitted was younger, faster and fitter than his, the result wasn’t so bad, particularly when an own-goal and a questionable penalty shot are factored in.

“Take away those two goals and it’s 3-1,” James said. “Absolutely they had more of the play, but that’s to be expected. I was happy with the result.”

The defeat eliminated the 49ers from the McGavin Cup tournament.

The 49ers will be at home again this Saturday at 6 p.m. against Vic West, one of the top teams in the Masters B division last year.

The masters league is taking a new format this year, with all the teams divided into blue and red pools for the start of the season. The teams will each play everyone in their pool once, and when that is over, the top teams will go to the A division for the remainder of the season, while the rest go to B division.

“It will be interesting,” James said. “It’s a bit of a different way to do it. It’s better for the league, and it will be better for the teams in the A Division when it comes to provincials.”

Cowichan’s other masters team, the Steelheads, played their first game of the season on Saturday, losing 3-0 to SFFC Forest. The Steelheads visit the CB Bobcats Alumni this Friday.

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