It wasn’t the Cinderella story ending Okanagan FC were hoping for in this year’s Pacific Coast Soccer League playoffs.
OKFC were barely bested by the league’s top team in a 2-1 loss on July 27, ultimately ending their season.
The Kelowna squad came into the playoffs as the fourth seed, tasked with a tough initial matchup against the hometown team Victoria Highlanders, who lost only one game at home all season and outscored opponents 40 to 13 all year.
OKFC held a 1-0 lead at the end of the first half, before Victoria netted two goals in two minutes in the second half.
Despite the loss, OKFC held their heads high.
“Couldn’t be more proud of the guys and their effort,” said coach Andrew Stevenson.
“Victoria is a different beast on their home field, and we got so close to causing a big upset.
”It makes the result a bit more bitter to know we were that close, but we’re proud to finish fourth after giving Victoria a really good go.”
A mental lapse in concentration for only two minutes was enough for Victoria to snatch the lead away from OKFC in the opening minutes of the second half.
Okanagan FC pressed hard in the final minutes down only a goal, but were unable get another against the hometown team.
“When you play the genuine top players on the top teams, two minutes is enough to seal a game. We collapsed for two minutes and they have the quality players that can capitalize on that,” said Stevenson.
Almost 30 players made an appearance for OKFC throughout the year due to injuries to the roster.
Balancing a large group of players and their injuries all the while finishing fourth in the league was a challenge for the first-year coach.
“If you had told me in my first season I’d be dealing with an injury list of 16 to 18 players, I’d have laughed at you,” Stevenson said.
“But how adaptive we were in bringing guys in and out was really impressive. If we didn’t have a deep group that really believed in what we were about, we wouldn’t have done as well as we did.
“All our players really played well this year.”
Injuries aside, the Kelowna team advanced to the playoffs in their first year in the PCSL.
Now, the program will take a few weeks of off-time before prepping for next season and taking the time to appreciate the team and the fans that embraced the return of high-level soccer in Kelowna.
“I want to thank everybody that came out and adopted Okanagan FC as their home team this season, the players loved it,” said Stevenson.
“Our challenge next year will be to develop our fan culture and experience, we want to make the fans as much a part of the team as our players.
“We’re excited for what 2020 will bring and next year, we won’t be as happy with a fourth place finish.”
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