Pitchside: Whitecaps FC U23s v Highlanders FC

When Carl Robinson was promoted from assistant coach to manager back in December, he said that he would find minutes for his players. On Tuesday, he found the better part of a thousand against the Victoria Highlanders.

Gordon Forrest was the manager on the day, as Robinson and his assistant, Martyn Pert, watched on from the shade. They were joined by two members of the football committee, Bob Lenarduzzi and Greg Anderson.

While the Highlanders are still in the midst of their preseason, with only 15 players officially signed for the 2014 season, the Whitecaps began with a strong lineup.

In keeping with the 4-4-2 diamond formation recently favoured by Robinson, Marco Carducci was in goal; Sam Adekugbe, Christian Dean, Carlyle Mitchell, and Ethen Sampson formed the backline; while Nigel Reo-Coker played as a holding midfielder, Bryce Alderson and Kianz Froese were on the wings, Marco Bustos was the attacking midfielder; and Nicolás Mezquida and Erik Hurtado made for an effective forward line.

 Sam Adekugbe takes a seat after being substituted for Nicholas Prasad at halftime.

Sam Adekugbe takes a seat after being substituted for Nicholas Prasad at halftime.

At halftime, Adekudge was replaced by Nicholas Prasad, and later Ethen Sampson came off for Jordan Haynes. Mitch Piraux warmed up along the sidelines, but did not feature in the match.

The match was taken in by a number of other senior players, including Captain Jay DeMerit, Kekuta Manneh, Darren Mattocks, Gershon Koffie, and Andy O'Brien.

Early in the second half, Sahil Sandhu converted a Tyler Hughes corner into a goal. Unfortunately for the Whitecaps and the two dozen spectators, Victoria concentrated on keeping a clean sheet from that point on.

Vancouver did have its chances. Hurtado forced goalkeeper Rab Bruce-Lockhart into a number of saves, and Mezquida beat him with a beautifully dipping ball that just bit the crossbar.

After the match, Robinson chose to focus on the positives with encouragement and reassurance for his beleaguered players, many of whom felt it embarrassing to lose to a PDL side.

 Victora Highlanders FC celebrate Sahil Sandhu's goal from a Tyler Hughes corner kick.

Victora Highlanders FC celebrate Sahil Sandhu's goal from a Tyler Hughes corner kick.

And they're right. They should feel embarrassed. The Whitecaps had more than a million dollars worth of players on the pitch. But these things happen. It was a friendly, but that's not how the Highlanders saw things.

To them, this was a chance to prove themselves to their manager, to their supporters, and to each other. They seized it with both hands.

The Whitecaps host San Jose on Saturday, and those that do not feature in that match, may well line up against Toronto in the first leg of CSA Cup Semi-Final on Wednesday.

After the match, the Highlanders headed for the ferry to prepare for the start of the PDL season. On Sunday, they play host to the Caps, who will have something to prove, and this time, it matters, both in terms of PDL standing, and the coveted Juan de Fuca Plate.