It was a fourth division Vancouver Island Soccer League men’s league game and, as usual, there weren’t many people around to watch at Westhills Stadium.
And a win for Juan de Fuca in Sunday’s game against division-leading Penelakut United, based on the former Kuper Island off Chemainus, wasn’t critical at this point in the season.
But a passerby could have easily guessed otherwise from the celebration that erupted around JdF forward Jaeho Lee, after he blasted in his fifth goal of the game, the insurance goal in a 5-3 victory.
“I’m so glad we won, because we lost the last game (against Penelakut) when we went to their home; the score was 4-0 for them,” he said of the Oct. 10 match.
With less than five minutes to play Lee sprinted to catch a lead pass down the centre of the field, raced in another 25 yards or so and unleashed a right-footed rocket that beat goalkeeper Lorne James to his left.
“If I didn’t have these guys, I wouldn’t have (scored) the goals. They passed to me very well,” he said modestly, pointing to his teammates chatting excitedly around him after the game.
Lee’s fearless header on a corner kick with about 15 minutes to go had given his team a 4-3 advantage.
A short time earlier, with JdF up 3-2, the visitors put heavy pressure on Juan de Fuca’s backfield, leading to a penalty shot call for a handball in the box.
Penelakut’s Raymond Sam made no mistake on the attempt, tying the game at 3-3.
Clearly not sensing that an important win had eluded them, Juan de Fuca rallied immediately, attacking hard and winning several loose balls. The locals managed a couple of corner kicks on top of the one that resulted in Lee’s goal.
The insurance marker came on a seemingly innocent-looking clear up the midfield. The ball found a seam in the Penelakut defence and allowed an alert Lee to race in past the last defender to score.
JdF coach Al Hood liked the way his team played in the rematch against the talented Penelakut side. He remembers well the day his team ventured up Island to play United on their home field. It was a stormy day – “the sun came out as we were walking off the field” – and Juan de Fuca was short players due to work commitments.
“They’re a very quick, skilled team and we were surprised by their speed,” Hood said. “And it was early in the season and we weren’t that well organized. Today we were expecting the speed and their skill and we made sure we were in position to save it, and we were lucky enough to turn it around.”
He praised his fullbacks for playing well and being prepared, as well as the midfielders for coming back to support them defensively.
While it’s still just midway through the VISL season, the win was not insignificant for Juan de Fuca. Not only was it the team’s fifth straight victory and seventh game without a loss after an 0-4 start, it pulled them within three points of top spot heading into the Christmas break.
“It’s terrific, this is as well as my team has ever played over the years,” Hood said.
“They’re a solid team; they’re enjoying playing together and they’re playing hard all the time, and it’s starting to show. For me it’s really rewarding to see how hard they’re working and doing their job, and having fun.”
That went double for Lee, he said. “Jaeho loves to score, and he was having a lot of fun this afternoon.”