Mariners open PDL season with loss, draw

The Magnuson Ford Mariners opened the Premier Development League soccer season with a pair of solid performances against high-profile foes.

Mariners centre back Mohammad Aziz (right) battles for the ball with a Victoria Highlanders opponent.

Mariners centre back Mohammad Aziz (right) battles for the ball with a Victoria Highlanders opponent.

The Magnuson Ford Mariners opened the Premier Development League soccer season with a pair of solid performances against high-profile foes.

On Friday, the Mariners dropped a 2-1 decision to the Vancouver Whitecaps residency squad at Empire Field. They bounced back to earn a scoreless draw against a tough Victoria Highlanders squad in their home opener Sunday at Bateman Park.

“The boys really rose to the occasion,” Mariners head coach Ian Knight summarized. “We played well on Friday for the most part, created lots of chances.

“Today it was about standing up to the physical challenge of Victoria, and I think we did that. I’m very pleased with the boys, how they stood up to that battle.”

Against the Whitecaps, the Abbotsford side generated plenty of quality looks at goal, but struggled to finish. Most notably, Caps keeper Brian Sylvestre stopped Mohammad Aziz on a penalty kick in the 84th minute. Mark McQuade finally got the Mariners on the board with a top-corner strike in added time, but Vancouver prevailed on the strength of Alexandre Morfaw’s two-goal outing.

Mariners keeper Lucas Menz made seven saves on Sunday to post the clean sheet, as the Abby club (0-1-1) secured its first point of the season.

Knight named Menz and defenders Aziz, Brent Wantke and Colton O’Neill as being among the standouts in the early going. Striker Danfi Parker, who registered three shots on Sunday, has been the most influential offensive presence.

The Mariners are off this week, and return to action on Sunday, May 29 with a home game against the Whitecaps residency squad (3 p.m., Bateman Park).