The Thunderbirds hadn’t seen a loss in over eight months until last night, but they hadn’t seen a red card in a year and a half either.
After punching above their weight in the BC Provincial Cup, the Vancouver Thunderbirds lost 1-0 last night to Surrey United Firefighters in the Men’s A semifinal. The Vancouver Thunderbirds, reigning Pacific Coast Soccer League (div 4) champions, are the daylight alter egos of the UBC men’s soccer team, who won the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) national championship last year after an undefeated season and even turned away the Whitecaps Reserves without giving them so much as a sniff.
The Thunderbirds have a powerful system based on possession and counterattack that crushed university opposition and has held fairly pat against senior players. They sunk the Reserves 3-0, held FC Edmonton’s first team to a 1-1 draw and shocked Vancouver Metro Soccer League champions Columbus FC in the quarterfinals of the Provincial Cup last weekend. The Thunderbirds are also a comparatively clean team, having gone the whole CIS season without a red card. (You’d have to go back to the 2011 Canada West semifinal to find their last red.)
When T-Bird Niall Cousens picked up a second yellow card just before the end of the first half, the system started to wilt. The Thunderbirds weren’t able to hold the ball quite as well and without counterattacks, they found themselves on the perimeter, trying to squeeze their way in. Gagandeep Dosanjh, wearing the armband, ran himself silly with a number of eyewatering runs around defenders, but never managing a final product that could beat Surrey keeper Andrew Fink.
And on offense, the defending Provincial Cup champions wore down the Thunderbirds with crosses and corners. Former Vancouver Whitecap Jeff Clarke ended up heading past Luke O’Shea early in the second half, which burst the brave faces the ten-men T-Birds were trying to present. O’Shea was excellent for the duration and kept the game close the rest of the way, but no goal came; right up to the last gasp, the Thunderbirds tried to get an equalizer and saw only efforts sail past the football uprights behind the net.
It was the Thunderbirds’ first loss since a 1-0 away defeat to Bellingham FC in the PCSL on August 24th, 2012. Surrey go on to face the winner of tomorrow’s semifinal between Cowichan and West Van.