Powell River Villa opened 2023 with a 3-1 loss to Bays United FC in Victoria on Saturday, January 14.
“In my opinion, we played one of our best games of the season,” said Chris McDonough, Villa’s manager. “Sometimes you can play very well and still lose, and that was the case here.”
Bays scored twice in the first half, at 21 minutes and again at 45 minutes, right before halftime.
“Both goals were defensive breakdowns, where a Bays player got in all alone against [goalkeeper] Matt [Liknes] and scored,” said McDonough. “That said, we had a lot of great chances in the first half, and were unlucky to not be on the board at halftime.”
Villa came out of halftime looking to get on the scoreboard, and achieved that at 50 minutes with a goal from Niko Cristante.
“Niko got the ball through to the Bays keeper, who juggled it a bit,” said McDonough. “It ended up bouncing into the net for the goal. It was a good effort by the team to keep the pressure on Bays and create that scoring opportunity.”
Bays scored six minutes later to open up the lead again.
“It was probably the nicest goal we’ve seen against us this year,” said McDonough. “They shot from 25 yards out with a hard line drive that headed right for the corner. Matt was able to get a piece of it, but it still went in. Not many keepers would have been able to save that goal.”
After a hard tackle near the end of the game, Cristante was sent off the field with a red card, and has been suspended for three games as a result. Despite being a man down, Villa held off last-minute pushes by Bays and the game ended with a 3-1 score.
“We’re happy with the effort, and it was one of our more solid games,” said McDonough. “We played good attacking soccer, so it was disappointing we didn’t get something out of the game, but the whole team put in an outstanding effort.
“Matt made some incredible saves, and Jake Kenmuir had a solid game on the back line. Caleb Vallance, who was on winter break from the University of Albany in New York and was able to join the lineup for this game, was extremely dangerous on the front line. There were also about 60 Powell River fans in the stands, so thanks to the people who travelled and the Powell-River-born Victoria residents who brought a positive atmosphere to the game.”
Despite the loss, Villa remains within two points of eighth place in Vancouver Island Soccer League (VISL) Division 1 standings, thanks to a successful protest of the game against Gorge FC on December 10, 2022.
“Gorge came to Powell River without their uniforms; there was precedent for a protest on those grounds, and the protest was granted just after Christmas,” said McDonough. “Their win was reversed, and we received three points in the standings as well as three goals for our ‘goals for’ statistic, which leaves us in a good position.”
Over the holiday break, Cristante, who is Villa’s captain, was selected for the VISL All-Star team. The team played the Fraser Valley Soccer League All-Star team on Saturday, January 7. VISL won the game in a shootout.
Villa hosts seventh-place Nanaimo FC on Saturday, January 21, at Timberlane Park. Kickoff is at 1:30 pm, and tickets will be available at the gate.
“We are only four points back of Nanaimo, so this is a chance to make up some points and stay in Division 1 for next season,” said McDonough. “That’s our focus, and if we keep playing the way we started in 2023, just with a few more goals, we’ll make it a reality.”