Soccer fans not on the sidelines for Powell River Villa’s final home game of the season missed watching the team play its best game of year. Villa dominated the match, winning 4-0 and advanced to the BC Soccer Provincial B Cup semi-finals on Sunday, May 6, in Vancouver.
From the opening kick to the final whistle, from back line to forward attack, once Villa players settled in, they thrilled hometown fans at Timberlane Park against a frustrated Fraser Valley Red Devils team.
“The first five to 10 minutes, I thought they came on really strong and then we just took the game from there and didn't let go,” said Villa head coach Chris McDonough.
If it wasn’t rookie defender Chris Fisher dropping 40-yard passes to midfield on a dime, it was former German Bundesliga player Greg Smith raising the level of his teammates play and drawing every eye of the 200-plus fans, or the finesse of Jake Kenmuir and flash of speedy young striker James Timothy streaking into position to score two of Villa’s goals. Kurtis Dennison and Kye Taylor also scored for Villa.
Although Matt Liknes was not challenged often, Villa’s goalkeeper picked up another clean sheet, his sixth of the 2017/2018 season.
Rock-solid defenders in front of Liknes will only become stronger with Jarek Long coming back for the semi-final, according to McDonough. Fisher, one of Villa’s exciting youth players added to the lineup late in the season, has stepped up and done a fantastic job in Long’s absence, added the coach.
“Chris is an excellent player and his distribution out of the back was fantastic,” said McDonough. “He has vision, great distribution and he's a quality defender.”
Also returning to the lineup is another of Villa’s teenagers, the nimble and agile striker Cullen Buholzer, who has been out for two weeks with an ankle injury.
Up front, the attacking Smith often left the hometown crowd awestruck by his physical play, soccer sense and ability to control the field at will whenever he had the ball, or just by his mere presence.
“He's so good,” said Kenmuir. “Not only is he a very good player, he's a very good guy and that helps, too. He never said, ‘I should be starting; I should be doing this.’ He said he’ll do whatever we need and wherever needed.”
Smith single-handedly elevated the team before he was sidelined with a minor injury in the second half. Without him, Villa adjusted and did not relent.
“Having our top four attacking players, with Kye Taylor, Greg Smith, Jake Kenmuir and James Timothy, is pretty formidable right now,” said McDonough. “Those guys were doing some pretty amazing things yesterday and our passing and movement was impressive.”
Timothy, one of Villa’s teenage phenoms, had an outstanding game, showing off extraordinary pace. His two goals could have been 10 had he connected on all of his chances, said McDonough.
“He's a lethal finisher,” he added. “He always seems to find the right areas. For a guy who's 16 years old, we're getting a lot out of him right now.”
Kenmuir, the reigning Vancouver Island Soccer League Division 3A MVP, said Fisher and Timothy were the two best players on the field for Villa.
“Watching those two just mature over the year has been nice,” said Kenmuir. “I remember being that age and it's hard to make the jump from playing youth to playing with men. It's a lot different and those two have done it flawlessly.”
Villa had not played a game in five weeks and were rusty in the round-of-16 match against Fraser Valley Blue Devils on April 22. Sunday’s game showed the best representation of Villa this season, according to Kenmuir.
The semi-final takes place on the road in Vancouver against the toughest team Villa has faced this year: Vancouver Strikers, one of the top teams in Vancouver Metro Soccer League, also one of the toughest soccer leagues in the province.
“It's just another team, right?” said Kenmuir. “We play who's put in front of us and we'll show up and play.”
McDonough said Villa is peaking at just the right time and that his team is looking forward to the weekend challenge, as are the many Villa fans who live in Vancouver.
Game time is 3:30 pm on Sunday, May 6, at Vancouver Technical Secondary School.