VANCOUVER, BC – There might not be bigger games this season than on Sunday when the TSS Rovers pay a visit to Varsity FC. For the home sides, it’s about keeping the hot streak going while the visitors look to stay in the search for the final.
With just two spots in the inaugural League 1 BC final after the regular season, cracking the top two in the final month has never been more critical. While Varsity has been the cream of the crop on the men’s and women’s sides, there’s an added incentive for Rovers to make the final, as they would host at their home pitch of Swangard Stadium.
On Sunday, critical points are on the line in both divisions. The men’s match kicks off at 1:00pm PT at Thunderbird Stadium, followed by the women at 3:30pm PT.
TSS up against it in search for points
On the women’s side, the TSS Rovers sit three points back of Varsity FC, although the UBC-based club has the edge with a game in hand. Still, a win would pull TSS level and give them much more hope.
For now, the final stretch is down to three teams, as Unity’s late push began to slip when they fell 2-1 to the Vancouver Whitecaps U19s midweek.
While Varsity will likely continue raking in points even if they lose on Sunday, it’s no certainty for the Whitecaps, with many of their starting players now departed for the NCAA. However, they’ve got quite the cushion sitting in first place, seven points ahead of the Rovers.
TSS take on Varsity without one of their most important players to this point, as Mia Pante has left for the NCAA. However, Isabella Muzzolini, Aislin Streicik, Raya Athwal, and Bella Roque remain on a solid Rovers side. That being said, don’t expect them to have much possession against Varsity.
Varsity thrives with controlling the ball and also break quickly, often playing out of a back three this season. For head coach Jesse Symons, there’s a tendency to build up quickly before playing a direct ball into the final third for a physical forward, whether it be Danielle Steer or Vanessa Tome. At the same time, the buildup can flow through the wings, particularly Holly Ward, who has been stellar this season.
The Rovers will have their hands full with the Varsity midfield and transition but should be able to handle it with a solid defence core. Joanna Verzosa-Dolezal, Moly Quarry and Jessica Fenner have been stellar for TSS this season, playing critical roles in the team, and allowing just 10 goals this season. Still, they will be tested against Varsity.
The intriguing part for Chelsey Hanneson’s Rovers side will be just how they transition the ball and distribute to their attackers without Streicik. Yet, there are options among their roster to fill in, albeit likely by committee.
Sunday’s clash is critical for the Rovers, as their hopes fade evermore without a win. Meanwhile, for Varsity, they can establish quite the six-point cushion between them and a non-finals spot. Either way, it will be an exciting one at Thunderbird Stadium.
Prediction: Varsity 2-2 Rovers
A potential finals preview for the men
As the women’s division battles for likely one of two spots in the final, the men’s match features a preview of what could be the inaugural League 1 BC title clash. First place Varsity FC, take on second-ranked TSS Rovers, but the leaders do hold a four-point lead and have a game in hand.
To help them both, a Rovers win is most beneficial, yet don’t expect Varsity to be fixing any matches or help their opponents.
The Rovers enter the match coming off a frustrating loss to Altitude FC midweek, where they fell 3-1 and became the first team in history to come out as losers against the North Vancouverites. With that, however, is an added vengeance to get points on Sunday, and facing a university-based Varsity FC it looks very doable.
Erik Edwardson has been fantastic for the Rovers this season, as have Jun-Won Choi and Ivan Meija. All three will be heavily relied upon on Sunday as they look to control a Varsity side that features former pros and CPL prospects, including Logan Chung, Caleb Clarke, Daniel Kaiser and Victory Shumbusho.
Neither team has shown to be particularly difficult to break down this season, so expect quite a few goals on Sunday, with most of the play likely to stay in the middle of the pitch. While the Rovers have heavily prepared for this match, knowing that a win would give them a much-needed cushion on the third-place Whitecaps, the mentality is more important than purely the football.
UBC, now Varsity, has shown an inability to close games out, often losing their primary focus in the final moments. If head coach Will Cromack can keep his Rovers dialled in until the final whistle, the match will e there for the taking if they have kept it close.
The Rovers and Varsity may not play the most attractive style of football, but so far this season. It has been effective, and there is little indication of that stopping anytime soon. However it unravels on Sunday, it’s bound to be an exciting and likely high-tempered clash.
Prediction: 3-2 Varsity FC