May 22nd, 2024

Semi-pro TSS Rovers savour return to Canadian Championship and Pacific FC rematch

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on April 30, 2024.

Pacific FC's Manny Aparicio, left, protects the ball from TSS Rovers' Matteo Polisi during second-half Canadian Championship quarterfinal soccer action in Langford, B.C., on Wednesday, May 10, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

TSS Rovers FC had a season of ups and downs in 2023.

Based in Richmond, B.C., the semi-pro side made headlines last April when it upset Canadian Premier League club Valour FC 3-1 at Swangard Stadium to become the first League1 team to beat a pro team in Canadian Championship play. While the cup run ended in a 2-0 loss to the CPL’s Pacific FC in the quarterfinals, TSS Rovers had made their mark.

But things turned sour in July in the League1 B.C. season finale. Leading the Victoria Highlanders 2-1 after 90 minutes, TSS Rovers conceded two goals in stoppage time – both from David Schaefer, one on a free kick and the second from the penalty spot – and lost 3-2.

“Very painful “¦ A very tough pill to swallow,” recalled Brendan Teeling, an assistant coach at the time who took over the team in January after head coach Darren Russcher had to step down because of the demands of his day job.

The result cost TSS Rovers first place in the regular-season standings, finishing at 9-3-2 behind Victoria’s 10-2-2, and a berth in this year’s Canadian Championship.

But the door to the cup competition re-opened when Victoria folded prior to this season. TSS Rovers got their spot and so will renew acquaintances with Pacific on Wednesday in preliminary-round play at Starlight Stadium in Langford, B.C.

“The boys are ecstatic,” said Teeling. “They’re excited. I feel there’s a few nerves as well but I think it excited nervousness, if that make sense.”

The team, which does not get paid, has nothing to lose.

“The pressure is on Pacific,” said Teeling. “We’ve got to embrace that kind of underdog role. Best-case scenario, we win and we’re heroes. Worst-case scenario we lose and I think that’s kind of what’s expected.”

In other cup games Wednesday, it’s York United FC at Forge FC and Valour FC at Atletico Ottawa in all-CPL matchups.

The preliminary round wraps Thursday with Ligue1 Quebec champion CS Saint-Laurent at Halifax Wanderers FC.

In earlier play, Cavalry FC edged Vancouver FC 1-0 and Toronto FC blanked League1 Ontario champion Simcoe County 5-0.

The defending champion Vancouver Whitecaps and 2023 runner-up Montreal received preliminary-round byes in the 14-team tournament.

Cavalry will play the Whitecaps in the two-legged quarterfinal while TFC faces either Halifax or Saint-Laurent.

The Canadian Championship winner hoists the Voyageurs Cup and qualifies for the CONCACAF Champions Cup.

TSS Rovers don’t open the League1 B.C. season until Sunday against the Vancouver Whitecaps academy side that ended their campaign last year with a 4-0 win in the playoff semifinal. The club, which trains four times a week, has been together for three weeks.

Forge goes into the clash with York in fine form, topping the CPL standings at 3-0-0 while outscoring the opposition 7-2. The Hamilton-based side blanked York 3-0 when they met April 21 at York Lions Stadium.

York coach Martin Nash called it “one of those performances that no one was happy with.”

“But we got some good footage to look at and try and change some things and approach the game slightly differently than we did last time” he added.

York bounced back from a season-opening 2-1 defeat at Atletico Ottawa and subsequent loss to Forge in its home opener with a 3-0 decision over visiting Vancouver FC on Friday.

While Forge is just three games into the CPL season that kicked off April 13, it has been in action for a while thanks to the CONCACAF Champions Cup, which it qualified for as league champion.

Forge lost 5-2 on aggregate to Mexico’s Chivas Guadalajara in the two-legged first-round series played Feb. 7 and Feb 13.

The early start comes with pluses and minuses, according to Forge coach Bobby Smyrniotis.

“It’s a tough one, because we started Jan. 4,” he said. “Maybe it could give you a little bit of a bump (in play) earlier but it’s something you’ve got to plan for a little bit later. And most of it is mental fatigue that comes in (later), so right now the guys are still fresh.”

Smyrniotis said Forge has benefited from stability on and off the field, including the roster.

“We’re steady in our approach,” he added. “We don’t change much week to week or over time. That gives guys a lot of confidence in what we do on the pitch.”.

Ottawa made it past the first round for the first time last year, defeating Halifax 3-1 before falling to Forge in a penalty shootout. Ottawa (2-0-1) and Valour (0-3-0) meet again in league play Sunday.

Forge and Pacific made it to the semifinals last year, losing to CF Montreal and the Vancouver Whitecaps, respectively.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 30, 2024

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