VANCOUVER, BC – When organizers set out to plan League 1 BC, one of the goals was to have proper community clubs. On Sunday, as 700 fans packed into Kinsmen Field, and hundreds more peered through the fences, that goal was achieved.
Altitude FC of North Vancouver kicked off their home schedule under the shadow of the North Shore Mountains, with a perfect community club atmosphere. While the results didn’t go their way, two dropped games to the Vancouver Whitecaps U19s; the club is setting a blueprint for future League 1 BC teams.
Still, despite the results, there were many footballing positives for the Altitude sides.
MEN: Whitecaps quick start, too much for Altitude
The Whitecaps got things started quickly on the men’s side, as 23-year-old Gurman Sangha ran rampant right from the first kick. He scored in the first five minutes and against before the 15th to put the MLS Academy ahead by two less than a quarter into the match.
Altitude settled into the game as former Whitecap Academy product Massud Habbibulah broke through with a chance, only to be stopped by Vancouver’s Marshall Heard.
As the game became more competitive, the older experience of some of Altitudes players began to stand out, with Sairoob Sairoob challenging Whitecaps defenders down the wing and often cutting in to fire a shot. Finally, in the 42nd minute, he linked up with veteran Mladen Ljumovic, who struck the post with his shot.
Brandon Bangambee had a headed chance for Altitude in the 74th minute but could not convert. Still, Altitude controlled the pace of play in the second half and showed a lot of promise in possession.
Sangha completed his hat trick in the 83rd minute with a penalty, and Bangambee earned a red card in second-half stoppage time, forcing him to miss the next match.
The Whitecaps are an intriguing team in League 1 BC. They are a perfectly picked group of young prospects in the province’s only MLS club system, but they are also significantly younger than the rest of the league. While they appeared comfortable against Altitude and Victoria, it will be intriguing to see how they do against the cohesive U SPORTS teams such as TSS Rovers, Unity FC and Varsity FC.
Meanwhile, Altitude can take their competitive 80 minutes from Sunday and try to re-apply what they learned when they take on Rivers FC on June 5. However, the crowd will likely be lighter for their second match, with the Canadian Men’s National Team facing Panama in Vancouver at the same time.
WOMEN: Whitecaps prevail despite tough Altitude test
UNB Red Alexandra Hughes-Goyette put her name in the Altitude FC history books on Sunday afternoon, but her lone goal wasn’t enough as the home side fell 2-1 to the Whitecaps U19s.
With Canadian Women’s National Team coach Bev Priestman in attendance, the Whitecaps team featuring Canadian U17 and U19 internationals got off to a quick start as Jeneva Hernandez Gray found Ashley Roberts in the box making it 1-0 within the first 12 minutes.
While the Whitecaps held the run of play through the rest of the half, the second began with the best chance of the day, as Hughes-Goyette broke through on goal but missed the target, leaving Altitude trailing.
One of the Canadian U17s, Anna Hauer, scored in the 66th minute to make it 2-0 for the Whitecaps before Altitude’s lone AUS player barreled in a free kick rebound to bring the home side within one.
Altitude continued to push but could not find the equalizer after losing to Rivers FC on the opening weekend, dropping their second match in a row.
Although the season hasn’t started as Altitude hoped, they showed promise against a cohesive and technically astute Whitecaps side on Sunday and showed that they can compete in the league.
The Whitecaps, however, have now beaten the Victoria Highlanders and Altitude but will face their toughest test against the TWU Spartans-based Unity FC on Wednesday night.