A first-half goal by Daniel Davidson ensured that the University of the Fraser Valley men’s soccer team would emerge victorious in its first league game at its new home pitch.
Davidson’s goal came in the 35th minute, and stood up as the game-winner as the Cascades earned a 1-0 triumph over the Thompson Rivers WolfPack on a rainy Friday evening at MRC Sports Complex.
The WolfPack (1-2-0), coming off an impressive 4-0 victory over the Victoria Vikes last Sunday, made a push in the second half, but were unable to convert against a Cascades squad (1-0-0) which was playing its first Canada West regular-season match after an opening-weekend bye.
“The first game is always a little bit nervy – the preseason is a lot different,” Cascades head coach Tom Lowndes noted afterward. “The lads came out with a lot of energy, which we knew they would. I think first half, we were really good, scored a really good goal and could have had a couple more.
“And then the second half, the tide changed a little bit. We had to defend for long periods, but good teams defend as a unit and defend well, and I think we did. It’s always nice to get that first win in the first game of the season.”
The Cascades were buzzing in the first half – Davidson nearly opened the scoring in the 26th minute when he got his head on the end of Connor MacMillan’s corner, but he sent it off the crossbar.
The third-year forward made good later in the half, though. After TRU keeper Claye Harsany made an initial save, the ball came to Davidson just outside the box, and he unleashed a shot which found the bottom corner.
“I look back on a chance like that, if I don’t take it, I kind of regret it – like, ‘Oh, I should have shot,'” Davidson said afterward. “So you can’t hesitate in a moment like that. I just struck the ball well, and it happened to find the bottom corner.”
“He’s hit those ones in training, and I’ve said I’ve been waiting for him to hit one in a game,” Lowndes said with a grin. “It was nice to see that go in.”
Michael Mobilio nearly made it 2-0 shortly after Davidson’s tally, but his shot from close range off a feed from James Najman hit the post.
The WolfPack, after being outshot 8-4 in the first half, managed a 5-4 edge in shots after the break but weren’t able to get anything past UFV keeper David Hicks, who was making his Cascades debut. One of their better looks came when they earned a free kick just outside the UFV box, but Mitchell Popadynetz sent his shot into a wall of Cascades defenders.
Lowndes was pleased with the way his backline, led by centre backs Tammer Byrne and Sukh Dhaliwal, held up against the WolfPack’s dangerous duo of Justin Donaldson and Ryan Glanville.
“Defensively, we were very solid,” he noted. “They had a couple of chances, but I liked our shape as a back four. They have a couple players who are a real handful and scored a lot of goals on the first weekend, and the way that we defended and limited their chances was very, very pleasing.”
The Cascades are at home on Saturday evening, taking on the UBC Okanagan Heat (8 p.m., MRC Sports Complex, Field 4), while TRU visits the Trinity Western Spartans (6:15 p.m.).