Ethen Sampson Victoria
Gary Woodburn/Victoria Highlanders FC

Preview: Whitecaps U-23 face Victoria Highlanders FC for third and final time this season

VANCOUVER, BC - Vancouver Whitecaps U-23 (5W-4L-1D) continue their four match home-stand Friday night versus provincial rivals Victoria Highlanders FC (7W-1L-1D). The winner of Friday’s match will lift the Juan de Fuca Plate, a supporters created trophy awarded to the top United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League (PDL) team in British Columbia.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. PT at Thunderbird Stadium and admission is free to the public. Updates will be available on Twitter at
The Blue and White are riding the high of an important 4-2 victory over Seattle Sounders FC U-23 last Friday. In the first hour of the match, Vancouver took the lead twice before allowing Seattle to equalize both times. The ‘Caps finally gained full control of the match on 65 minutes when they scored twice in three minutes to secure the three points.  
Midfielder Bobby Jhutty put on a majestic performance to lead the side to victory, recording three goals and assisting on the fourth.
The result propelled Vancouver past Seattle into third place of the Northwest Division with four games left in the PDL season.
The ‘Caps now turn their attention to Highlanders FC in another crucial encounter, both in the Northwest Division standings and in terms of the chance to capture the Juan de Fuca Plate.
Head of high performance Stuart Neely believes his team is aware of the significance of the match.
“The players know what’s at stake for the handful of games remaining. It’s going to be a big challenge for the boys. The Juan De Fuca is riding on the line, which is important,” said Neely. “More importantly, it’s a match that could seal our fate moving forward in respect to the playoffs. We have to treat it as a very important game for us.”
Led by former Whitecaps FC women’s team assistant coach Steve Simonson, Victoria currently sit at the top of the Northwest Division with 22 points.
The ‘Caps are responsible for the only loss of Victoria’s season thus far, an exciting 5-3 win back on May 31 at Royal Athletic Park. 
Two players to watch out for on the Highlanders are leading scorers Jordie Hughes and Brett Levis, who have eight and seven goals on the year respectively.
The ‘Caps have an all-time record of 6W-3L-3D against Victoria Highlanders FC since they joined the PDL in 2009.
The two teams have both beaten each other once this year. Victoria edged Vancouver 3-2 in the second game of the season at Thunderbird Stadium, before the ‘Caps returned the favour in defeating the Highlanders 5-3 in front of their home fans in Victoria.
The rubber match between the two teams will decide the Juan De Fuca plate, a supporter-sponsored competition crowning the best PDL team from British Columbia. When the plate was created last year, it was contested between Fraser Valley Mariners, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, and Victoria Highlanders FC. Vancouver won the inaugural title in 2012.
Since the Mariners no longer compete in the PDL this year, the plate is now contested between Vancouver and Victoria and is based on their three-game head-to-head series.
The winner of Friday night’s match will therefore be awarded the Juan De Fuca plate. In the case of a draw, goal differential in games between the two teams will decide the plate; if that still doesn’t decide the champion then goals for will decide, followed by away goals are the next determining factors.
Neely is looking forward to the prospect of his team earning a piece of silverware by defeating the top team in the division.
“Victoria’s been a shining example of success. Literally, they’re sitting at the top of the table,” said Neely. “They’ve won one and we’ve won one. It’s bragging rights on the Canadian side of things. It’s something that the boys would certainly be proud of.”
After taking on Victoria on Friday, Whitecaps FC U-23 next look forward to hosting Portland Timbers U-23 on July 12. That match is scheduled for a 7 p.m. PT kickoff at UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium.