TSS Rovers inflict double defeat as Rivers kept at bay

As the Canadian men’s national team made history by qualifying for the quarterfinals of the Copa America, it was business as usual for the country’s evolving fleet of domestic leagues. This past Friday saw TSS Rovers host their penultimate home games of the season, welcoming Kamloops-based outfit Rivers FC to Swangard Stadium for League1 BC action.

Women

TSS Rovers 1-0 Rivers FC

With just one win all season and their play-off hopes hanging by a thread, a win was essential for Rivers if they were to mount an end-of-season revival. 

TSS are the front-runners for the fourth and final play-off spot. Altitude will be their most likely competitor but games in hand favour TSS.

The opening 15 minutes gave a good indication of where this game may be won. Rivers were operating a high line that TSS made multiple attempts to breach. The pace of Jenna Baxter, who has provided the attacking energy for TSS throughout the season, was proving a real threat. Rivers probed, getting forward quickly but offering little in the final third and lacking the attacking impetus TSS had in Baxter. The best chances of the first half came in quick succession; two Alyssa Scott efforts were denied by Kelsey Fisher in the Rivers goal, the keeper saving smartly to keep her side in the game and level at the interval. 

Rivers’ high line was finally exposed in the second half. Katie Bishop sent a divine through ball between the Rivers defence, opening up space for Jenna Baxter to receive it in the box, skip past Fisher, and slot home for the opener 69 minutes in. Rivers showed intent going forward following the goal, though their chances of equalising were reduced when Kambria Mellum received a second yellow for kicking the ball away. Cara Freeman gave TSS a late scare when her 30-yard effort struck the crossbar, with the away side battling to the end but coming up short. 

In a well-fought win where they remained patient in the final third, TSS consolidated their play-off aspirations in what was an expected win. Rivers, who battled hard but lacked a goalscoring threat, saw their hopes of a play-off spot all but ended. 

TSS captain Kirstin Tynan on the season run-in and securing that last play-off spot: “I’m confident in our group; each game we’ve built off of our last performance… we have games in hand, and we’re still seeing that progression.”

On how that progression has developed: “We’ve been working on the core fundamentals of our game while still trying to have fun, letting the football speak for itself.”

A solid performance from Rivers keeper Kelsey Fisher, despite finishing on the losing side.

Men

TSS Rovers 5-1 Rivers FC

TSS were served their first taste of defeat last week as they went down to the Whitecaps at Swangard. Rivers picked up their second win of the season last week against bottom-ranked Burnaby FC; a win at Swangard was going to be a trickier task.

Rivers began the night on the front foot and perhaps should have been the beneficiary of a refereeing decision five minutes in. Rivers’ Ryan Lewis looked to have been brought down by TSS keeper Connor Adams five minutes in, with the referee waving on play as the Rivers players appealed. A wake-up call for TSS, who responded quickly and scored the opener five minutes later through Massud Habibullah. The number nine, who must step up following the departure of Devin O’Hea, netted his second of the season with a cool finish from close range. The hosts doubled their lead when Tyler Dhillon darted forward before slamming it past Gavin McFee in the Rivers net. TSS had a healthy 2-0 lead going into halftime.

Rivers returned fire just minutes after the restart, with Ryan Lewis’ looping header beating Adams in what turned out to be a mere consolation for the visitors. Ivan Mejia replied for TSS within a minute, before Habibullah netted his second goal of the night 10 minutes later. After missing the start of the season due to injury, Erik Edwardson returned to action when he was substituted on with three minutes to go. His first touch was a free kick that went over the crossbar. If it wasn’t already game over, Michael Hennessy made sure of the win when he was left free to run through the Rivers defence before firing past McFee for five.  

After a month without a win, it was a return to winning ways for TSS. They’ll go toe-to-toe with the Whitecaps for the top spot in the league. The scoreline may look harsh on Rivers, who kept the ball well at times but ultimately left too many gaps in behind for TSS runners.