SURREY â€” Buckle up, the final weeks of the Vancouver Metro Soccer Leagueâ€™s premier division campaign promises to have more lead changes than a high school basketball game.
With three weeks left in the season, five teams are clustered within two points of each other atop the standings, ensuring that every point earned â€” or lost â€” will be crucial.
â€œWeâ€™re in first place now, but the standings are incredibly tight,â€ said Surrey United Firefighters coach Rob Reed. â€œI honestly have not seen anything like this in this league, well, ever. There are five teams that have a legitimate shot at winning this thing. Itâ€™s tight at the bottom of the standings too with teams trying to avoid relegation. Everyone in the league, for different reasons, has meaningful games right to the end of the season. Itâ€™s quite exciting.â€
The Firemen are currently tied with Coquitlamâ€™s Metro Ford Wolves for top spot with perennial power West Van lurking one point behind. Newtonâ€™s CCB-RT United and defending league champion Columbus are lurking two points off the lead.
At the other end of the tables, Newtonâ€™s ICST Pegasus has mounted a charge to escape the relegation zone. After last weekend the Horsemen were in last place with 16 points, but have two games in hand on 10th place Norvan, who sit just four points ahead.
â€œEvery team has pressure to get points right now, but the most pressure is on the teams trying to avoid relegation,â€ Reed said. â€œThatâ€™s a lot of pressure. The top teams are all in great position to qualify for the Provincial Cup and for us, winning the league is a very big goal. We have a great opportunity and we have to make sure we get the job done.â€
Reed added with a laugh, â€œAll we have to do is beat out four other teams.â€
On the pitch last week all three Surrey entries posted victories. The biggest win came on the North Shore Friday night where Pegasus stunned West Van 2-1.
West Van opened the scoring in the 20th minute, but the Horsemen wasted no time responding as Sahil Sandhu sidestepped several West Van defenders and then fed a pass to Reynold Stewart for the equalizer.
Pegasus maintained their offensive pressure, but Stewart, Sandhu and Azad Palani were all denied by the West Van goalkeeper.
After withstanding a West Van offensive burst to open the second half, the Horsemen were finally rewarded for their efforts in the 84th minute when a David Samra pass sent Stewart free on a breakaway, a dash that ended with the game-winning goal.
Meanwhile back in Newton, CCB-RT United climbed up the standing by taming Coquitlamâ€™s Wolves 2-0.
Goaltenders dominated the game until the 70th minute when Navid Mashinchi delivered a crossing pass into the box for Nick Soolsma to volley home.
United sealed the win when Soolsma bagged his second goal of the game in the 85th minute to provide a measure of insurance.
In Langley Saturday, the defending provincial champion Firefighters moved into a share of first place with a 3-1 win over the Langley Hurricanes.
Langley dominated the early stages of the contest and opened the scoring on a Niko Marcina goal. Marcina had a chance to add to the Hurricanes lead, but his penalty shot in the 30th minute clanged off the goal post.
Shortly afterward the tide turned in the game when Langleyâ€™s Amar Mander was sent off with a red card. Surrey tied the game seconds before the halftime whistle when Sean Einarsson headed home a pass from Vinnie Stewart.
The second half was all Surrey as the Firefighters took advantage of their shorthanded hosts. Surrey took the lead in the 50th minute when Nigel Marples volleyed a Steve Kindel corner kick into the net. Surrey iced the game in the 70th minute when Einarsson set up Stewart for the insurance marker.
United will have their hands full Friday night at Newton Athletic Park (8:30 p.m.) when they take on a desperate Pegasus squad in the latest installment of the Surrey Derby. â€œThis game is very important for both teams so I presume it will be even more intense than usual,â€ Reed said. â€œPegasus is a very good team. We played them a couple of weeks ago and they challenged us big time. They definitely do not look like a team that deserves to be relegated.â€