A questionable call by the referee took the wind out of Cowichan United’s sails in last Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Castaways at the Sherman Road turf, but head coach Tyler Hughes didn’t think that was a reasonable excuse.
Cowichan took the lead early in the U21 soccer match on a goal by Logan Kits, but the momentum changed a few minutes later when Castaways capitalized on a controversial penalty shot.
A Cowichan defender made a difficult pass to goalkeeper Braeden Nash, who had to take the ball with his chest and redirect it to the side. With an attacker coming in quickly, Nash toe-poked the ball out of bounds. The Castaways player went over Nash’s leg as he stretched out, and even though Nash was clearly going for the ball, the ref determined that he was trying to take out the Castaways player and awarded a penalty kick.
“That changed the game,” Hughes said. “We kind of lost our intensity from there.”
Castaways scored two more in the next 25 minutes, and took a 3-1 lead into halftime. At the break, Hughes addressed the downturn in his team’s play.
“We definitely started well,” he said. “But after the goals, our intensity level went down a bit.”
When they returned to the pitch, Cowichan went back to their earlier form. They dominated possession, created chances for themselves and limited Castaways’ opportunities. Bjorn Erickson scored to get Cowichan back within a goal.
“The second half was one of our best halves of the year,” Hughes said. “Obviously, we didn’t get the result, but performance-wise, it was one of our better ones to date.”
Hughes felt his team should have rallied after the questionable penalty shot, and hopes the players learned a lesson from Sunday’s match.
“A call like that should galvanize the team,” he said. “We’ve got to pick up our socks. We’re still a young team in that respect, but the way we came back from it in the second half was very good. That’s the response we should have had. If we had that right after the penalty shot, we probably would have won by a couple of goals.”
Cowichan remains last in the U21 division, but isn’t out of the contention at this point in the season. The team will get Luke Armstrong back from injury soon, giving them an experienced player who was with the club last year and will provide leadership, and Brazilian import Igor Liah, who was dangerous when he played early in the season, should also return in the near future.
“The league is tight,” Hughes said. “If we get a few wins, even a couple wins, we’ll be right back in the middle of the table.”
United will play at home again this Sunday at 2:15 p.m. against Prospect Lake. Prospect beat Cowichan 3-0 when they met earlier in the season, but Hughes isn’t expecting a repeat of that result.
“There’s no reason for us to be scared or worried about anybody,” he said. “This group can be one of the strongest groups in the league.”