The Cowichan 49ers’ magical debut season continues.
The masters soccer team is on to the third round of the Deryl Hughes Cup over 35 provincial soccer championship after beating Burnaby’s Roma FC 3-1 on Sunday afternoon, and will host their next match at the Sherman Road turf this coming Saturday.
George Thomas scored twice and Darcy Penner added one, and goalie Rob McIntyre had another outstanding day as the upstart Cowichan team knocked off the best team in the Burnaby masters league in a match at North Vancouver’s Confederation Park.
“We didn’t know much about them except that they were a seeded team out of the Burnaby league, which is why they got the bye and a home game,” 49ers head coach Kevin James said. “It was a good game, a battle back and forth. There were some really strong quality stretches.”
McIntyre was solid in the early going, particularly when he put an end to a quick counterattack by Roma after a missed opportunity by his own team. The 49ers responded by going up 2-0. Roma pressed after that and scored on a lucky bounce, but Cowichan got the two-goal lead back about 10 minutes later.
“You could see that took the wind out of their sails,” James said of his team’s third goal.
The 49ers will play host to the Port Moody Rangers at Williams Turf this Saturday at 4 p.m. and James knows things won’t get any easier as his team progresses.
“The teams just get tougher and tougher,” he said. “No team is an easy game, and as you get further in the tournament, the other teams are doing the same as you: winning games.
“Port Moody is going to be our toughest game yet. We know that for sure. They scored a ton of goals in their league. They gave up a bunch of goals, but obviously their strength is putting the ball in the net. We will have to be solid defensively. On offence, we have the talent and we know what to do.”
The Rangers finished fourth in the Fraser Valley masters league with nine wins, four ties and eight losses, scoring 47 goals and allowing 39. They beat Vic West in the first round of the provincial tournament, then knocked off North Delta, the top team from their own league, in the second round.
“That was something of an upset, but anything can happen in provincials,” James said.
Perhaps indicative of the Rangers’ offensive prowess, they defeated Vic West 6-2; Vic West being the team that the 49ers edged 2-1 in the Tony Grover Cup final.
Not knowing the opposing teams has been a challenge, James acknowledged, but the 49ers have stuck to their own game plan so far, and plan to keep that up, making adjustments as necessary.
“We’re not changing something that has been working for us,” the coach said.
If Cowichan wins on Saturday, the team will get to host a semifinal match, but James isn’t worrying about that yet.
“We’ll focus on getting the win first,” he said. “We’re not even there yet. We have to get a result.”
The 49ers’ ranks will be bolstered this weekend by the return of captain Erik Fuller, who has been out of the country, and Henry Nelson, who has missed the last few games due to injury. Dale Aune might also be returning from an injury.
“It will be great to get those guys in,” James said. “We’ve got a lot of knocks and injuries. It’s a tough tournament.”
The team is hoping for a strong turnout in the stands on Saturday.
“We’d like to see a whole bunch of people out to support us,” James said. “We want to take advantage of the home game
“The guys are pumped up. It’s gonna be a doozy. No matter what the result, whether we’re up or down, we’ll roll up our sleeves and battle — Cowichan soccer.”