Surrey United Firefighters rode sensational goalkeeping and a timely goal from a second half substitute to a narrow 1-0 win over archrival ICST Pegasus in Imperial Cup semifinal action in Newton Friday night.
The Imperial Cup tournament is contested by teams in the premier and first divisions of the Vancouver Metro Soccer League. With the win, United finds itself on the doorstep of capturing the beloved silver bauble for the third straight year.
"It was a definitely a big win for us, probably our biggest of the season so far," said Surrey coach Niall Thompson. "The amazing thing about that game is our lineup hasn't played together in a month.
We probably lacked a bit of flow and consistency but our veterans really came through for us. It was nice to get the win despite not playing together for a month, so that made it a really nice team win.
"If you think about what we've achieved in the past three years with five trophies (two Imperial Cups, two VMSL premier titles and one Carlsburg Cup), to reach another final shows the stability of our team. We've lost some players over those years but we've replaced them with players who fit in to the way we play."
As usual, United had its hands full in the latest Surrey Derby against Pegasus - the defending provincial and, as of this month, VMSL premier champions.
The Horsemen carried much of the play through the early stages of the match. Jag Gill and Sahil Sandhu each had clear-cut scoring chances in the first half but came up empty thanks in part to the stellar play of Surrey goalkeeper Paul Shepherd.
Thompson made some tweaks to his lineup at the break and Surrey responded with a stronger offensive surge in the second half. Colin Streckmann had the best chance when his chip shot was cleared off the goal line by Pegasus defender Paul Bahia.
Surrey finally broke the deadlock in the 75th minute when Thompson, having joined the contest as a sub midway through the final frame, headed home a crossing pass from Sean Parkes.
The goal provided some spark for Pegasus and they pressed hard for the equalizer only to be denied by a leaping Shepherd save on a drive from Niko Marcina.
"We definitely had our share of chances but we couldn't get that elusive goal," said Pegasus coach Rob Reed. "We created good chances and we had a lot of possession but we just couldn't get a goal. I don't want to take anything away from Surrey United because it really was an outstanding game by both teams. It had a bit of everything and it was probably the best game we've played against them in terms of pure entertainment."
Surrey now moves on to the Imperial Cup final Sunday against West Van at North Vancouver's Kinsmen Stadium at 1: 30 p.m.