A fierce collision altered the complexion of a League 1 BC soccer match that had some bite to it on Sunday at Hillside Stadium, a tilt that finished with Rivers FC and Whitecaps FC knotted at 1-1.
Electric attacker Daniel Sagno gave hometown Rivers a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute and his goal preceded the foul that left goalkeeper Jackson Gardner with a head injury — and a red card — and the Vancouver Whitecaps FC forward in a heap.
“Jackson is OK,” Rivers FC head coach John Antulov said. “It was very concerning, but early prognosis is pretty good.”
Gardner was taken to hospital and replaced by Olivier Jumeau about 15 minutes into the match.
“It was kind of one of those bang-bang plays,” Antulov said. “Ball got played through. Jackson went out to challenge. The player tried to move the ball past Jackson and they collided. It’s one of those things where half the people say it was a red card and the other half say it wasn’t because we had the cover in behind.”
Tomás Peña of the Whitecaps scored on the ensuing free kick — the foul was committed outside of the 18-yard box — and momentum appeared to have turned against the undermanned home side.
“It definitely changed the dynamic of the game, for sure, but we did very well, especially in the second half,” Antulov said. “I don’t think you would have known we were a man down.”
Rivers had chances to take the lead in the second half, but good goalkeeping and a few squandered opportunities kept the Kamloops club from prevailing on home turf.
Antulov and three of his players received yellow cards during the game.
“For mine, I should have known better,” Antulov said. “On both sides, I think both coaches were a little frustrated.”
Hee Young Chung, who does double duty as an assistant coach for both the men’s and women’s Rivers’ squads, was shown a red card after an exchange with the referee following the final whistle.
Antulov said Chung has been suspended for one match and will not be on the sideline on Sunday when Rivers’ men and women square off against Unity FC in Langley.
“Hee Young got a bit frustrated after that game, but it’s all part of it,” Antulov said. “It was a pretty heated game.”
Rivers has one win, two losses and three draws and sits fifth among seven teams in league standings. Whitecaps FC (3-2-2) are tied for second.
Unity’s men are 1-3-2 on the campaign and one point back of Rivers.
Antulov and Chung were integral in the recruiting process for the women’s team, which underwent change at the top on May 12, less than two weeks before the season began.
Mark Pennington, who was named head coach in November, shifted into the club’s technical director role, a position that was held by Antulov.
Pennington, whose partner was expecting the arrival of their first child, stepped aside to spend more time with his family, according to a Rivers press release.
Injured TRU WolfPack and Rivers forward Jost Hausendorf took the head coaching reins 10 days prior to the team’s franchise and regular season opener on May 22 at Hillside Stadium, a 2-0 victory over Altitude FC of North Vancouver.
“We basically had 10 days to put a roster together, myself and Hee Young,” Antulov said. “There were some girls available, but not too many. It was a lot of phone calls, trying to use as many connections as we could to try and get girls out to play.”
The Rivers women, who have not won since opening day, suffered a 3-0 defeat to league-leading Whitecaps FC (6-0-1) on Sunday at Hillside Stadium.
“I’m very happy with where the girls are,” Antulov said. “When you have that many players that haven’t played together, it definitely takes a long time to gell. Look at some of the teams they’re playing against, with NCAA and national team players. The girls have come in and done very, very well.”
Rivers (1-4-1) is sixth among seven teams and five points behind fourth-place Unity FC (3-3-0) in league standings.