Right back Darren Dunne dances a jig after G.F.C. score a late equalizer.
Fresh on the heels of their merger with Yaletown F.C. Gastown F.C. got their VMSL season underway when their CAT side took on a familiar Vancouver Greencaps F.C. team at a bustling Trillium park. With the Div 2 side in action later in the evening Gaffer Roberts was just able to give a rousing team talk before having to drive off to Surrey where he'd miss an enthralling encounter between these neighbouring rivals.
A handful of GFC's old guard were in the team in the form of Amin, Karu and Keller while captain Parrott was forced into an emergency stint in goal as the team were still without Whelan and Mironov who were given an extra week's break after their efforts at the Euros. Deadline day signing Steven Haslemore's paperwork was ratified at the last minute clearing him to start at the back with fish monger Josh Baker. The side lined up in the traditional 4-4-2 formation with Lew and Rabelo providing the steel in the middle of the park while Takayuki Hashiguchi and Phil O'Neil were up front doing their best Heskey/Owen impression.
Gastown, despite having only played as a full team a couple of times before started brightly and their early pressure was rewarded with the opener. After some good work from Amin down the left he hit a low cross into the area for Hashiguchi who drew two defenders with him and were taken out of play with a sublime backheel for the on-rushing Keller. His powerful first time shot was well saved by the keeper but the rebound came right back to him and he poked it home on 10 minutes.
The lead was short-lived however as a complete breakdown in communication, a common theme from the virtually mute men in white, led to free kick on the edge of the area. The resulting free-kick was swung-in and went unclaimed to miss everyone to find an unmarked Greencap at the back post. He fired a shot from a tight angle past Parrott that was expertly chested in by Haslemore for an own goal. Buoyed by their quick reply the Greencaps buckled down and started to boss proceedings from the middle of the park. Their red-booted possession hoarder took what little pressure Gastown caused off of their back four while their front 5 were a constant threat as they made short quick runs between defenders.
Their efforts paid off on thirty minutes when they fed the ball into former one-time Gastown frontman Oscar Salvador who held the ball up well before laying it off for a midfield runner. He then peeled off his newly occupied marker into an hour's worth of free space (Keller was busy up-field trying to double his tally) where he received the return pass, took a touch, lifted his head up, picked his spot, waved at the fans and smashed home past a helpless Parrott.
Going in down 2-1 at the half, GFC shuffled their lines slightly and introduced the late arriving Cyrus Heidari who was tasked with leading the fightback. One that was made twice as difficult when another bout of Greencap passing carved open the left hand side of the Iron's defence and Salvador turned provider with a tidy through pass which was met with a scuffed shot which wrong-footed the gangly keeper and rolled in to double their advantage. Things went from bad to worse though shortly thereafter for Gastown as it looked like a rout was on the cards. A constant thorn in their side, Salvador jinked his way into space before firing his second of the game hard into the bottom corner.
Down 4-1 and looking to salvage some self respect let alone a point, GFC dug deep and finally started to knock the ball around with some kind of intent. A consolation goal came after some good work from Karu and Lew in the middle got the ball up for Heidari at the top of the 18 with his back to goal. The tardy frontman held off his man, dropped his shoulder to turn towards goal and made himself the yard he needed to curl an exquisite left footed effort around the outstretched keeper and into the top corner. The goal made it 4-2 with 20 to play and some seeds of belief had been planted.
Pressing forward and showing the merits of their pre-season fitness regimen Gastown were offered another glimmer of hope when they earned a freekick 25 yards out. Having scored one glorious effort already, Heidari was given the honors by default. Lining up to hit it, his Ronaldo inspired 83-step run up incited visions of a shot landing in the adjacent CPR parking lot in the back of most GFC minds. Instead though, Heidari unleashed a prodigious wobbling effort which whistled over the wall and flew into the side netting leaving the keeper nothing to do but admire it.
Suddenly, the seemingly distant prospect of a opening day away-point became a possibility and Gastown poured forward in search of an equalizer. With everyone dreaming of being a hero, they nearly shot themselves in the foot as they were left exposed at the back and Greencaps were sent through on goal down their right for the umpteenth time forcing Parrott to come up big with a save with his legs. Other Greencap attacks down the flanks proved fruitless as fatigue was really starting to set-in. Karu on the other hand was bursting with new-found energy and worked the ball around with Lew before twisting his way into the area. As he looked to shoot though, he was chopped down and awarded a late penalty much to the chagrin of the Greencaps whose grasp on the game was all but gone.
Whoelse but Heidari should've stepped up to take it, and on a hat-trick, promptly smashed it high up the middle to knot things at 4-4 where the game would finish despite 5 minutes of frantic hopefully longballs into space. While Gastown will be pleased with their fighting spirit, they'd be wise to realize that they were virtually gifted a way back into the game and shore things up at the back as sterner tests could lie ahead.
Ironman of the Match - Cyrus Heidari
Next game vs. IFC Polonia 'B'