Last minute free kick gives Rapids Metro title

The Whitehorse Rapids, over-35 men’s soccer team, was the dark horse of the Senior Metro Men’s Soccer League. Then again, having joined the league just a few weeks ago, that was inevitable.

The Whitehorse Rapids, over-35 men’s soccer team, was the dark horse of the Senior Metro Men’s Soccer League. Then again, having joined the league just a few weeks ago, that was inevitable.

The Rapids rallied from a goal down to win the league’s finals and the Howard W. Firth Memorial Trophy at FH Collins Secondary Sunday evening.

“We just got organized halfway through the summer,” said Rapids captain Brad Martin. “When we started we decided we weren’t going to play in the men’s league and focus on practicing and training, instead of playing games. And then an opportunity came up at the end of the season where the league was missing a team – guys had gone back to school.”

For the title, the Rapids downed a younger Crush FC team (playing in orange jerseys) 2-1.

Both Rapids goals came from Victor Lavanderos, making a beautiful header in minute 30 to tie the game 1-1. Lavanderos then scored on a direct free kick outside the goal box in the final minute of the game to secure the win for his team.

“He came through at critical times – he got a couple goals for us,” said Martin. “He’s always a hard worker. He plays from the opening whistle to the end. So he’s quality guy and a leader out on the field. He’s played a lot of years here and down in Montreal as well.

“He’s a key guy for sure, both skill-wise and leadership-wise.”

A key player in the indoor scene as well, Lavanderos was awarded the Golden Boot at the Whitehorse Invitational 35-and-over Men’s Indoor Soccer Tourney in May.

The Crush FC actually took the lead just seven minutes into the game on their first scoring opportunity, while playing a defensive game, short a couple players. For the goal Crush’s Lars Jessup, alone in front, had his shot stopped by Rapids goalkeeper Patrick Jackson, but it dribbled over the sprawled goalie, allowing Crush striker Caleb Kelly to put it in the open net.

“We sat back and let them control most of the play, as we started a player or two short,” said Crush FC captain Dan Macdonald. “We decided to be more defensive and stay in our own end. We just left Caleb up as our lone striker. We left him up alone and obviously it paid dividends.

“We knew we had some players en route and late.”

The catalyst for forming the Rapids team this year was originally to compete at an over-35 tournament in Penticton, BC, over the Thanksgiving weekend. For Martin, Sunday’s win is further evidence the team is starting to gel and may be a force to be reckoned with in Penticton.

“I’m really proud of the guys. Like I said, we just started coming together as a team a few weeks ago,” he said. “A lot of these guys haven’t played competitive soccer in a few years, they were a little bit rusty at the beginning, but we’ve improved immensely in the last four weeks.

“Simon (Pulido), the coach, has done fantastic job pulling us together.”

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com