Stu Walters/UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds opened the home portion of their 2018 Canada West season with an impressive 3-0 victory over the Trinity Western Spartans Sunday afternoon at Thunderbird Stadium.
First-year striker Caleb Clarke was a standout in his home debut, playing a big part in all three goals, which included netting his second in as many games to round out the scoring in the 80th minute to make it 3-0. Clarke showed great poise in the box after he brought down an up-field pass from midfielder Thomas Gardner, the Arts student then opened up and calmly placed the ball into the bottom right corner of the net passed an outstretched TWU goalkeeper Sebastian Colyn.
It was a complete effort at both ends of the pitch for the 'Birds who set the tone early on home pitch thanks to third-year forward Zach Verhoven's impressive finish to open the scoring in the 15th minute. From 12 yards out Clarke feathered a pass to the left side of the box for Verhoven who with his first touch curled the ball into the far-right corner and a 1-0 advantage.
TWU would respond with some possession that led to one of their best chances of the night in the 37th minute when Leighton Johnson found room for himself to unleash a quick shot from 22 yards out that zoomed along the turf and just left of the UBC goal. Fourth-year T-Bird goalkeeper Jason Roberts was in good position however diving to his right and covering the angle to watch the chance miss by a yard. Roberts wasn't busy on the day but was vocal and sharp when called upon in making two saves and earning his first clean sheet on the campaign.
Minutes into the second half UBC connected on a nice scoring play to increase their lead to 2-0 as Clarke delivered a well-placed long-range cross along the ground from the right flank that was tapped home from close range by midfielder Sean Einarson in minute 51.
Down 2-0, the Spartans showed no quit in carrying much of the play with build-up that led to a couple of header chances in the box that went wide. The visitors best chance of the second half came in the 63rd minute when Jacob Low got on the end of a beautiful through ball but watched his attempt roll across the goal mouth before UBC cleared the danger. The T-Birds would then seal the result with Clarke's counter attack tally in the 80th.
"That was a pretty complete 90-minute performance today," said UBC head coach Mike Mosher. "We got the good early goal and then we weathered the last 15-20 minutes of the first half where I thought TWU came at us and then from there I thought it was a really solid second half both in attack and with some well executed goals."
Even though it's just the second regular season game for the T-Birds Mosher was imploring to all involved that he wanted to see a more determined defensive effort.
"We also stressed to the boys that it was about time that we got a clean sheet and we were desperate right to the end that we weren't going to concede. Credit to the team but specifically to defenders Manraj Bains and Connor Guilherme who had a much better game today which went along way. You know 3-0 but I'm as happy about the clean sheet as I am of anything today."
Clarke was the man of the match in collecting three points on the day as he certainly looked comfortable in his first regular season home game in blue and gold.
"It was a great home opener and we're very happy as a squad," said Clarke who played overseas last year for FC Amberg, a fourth division club in Germany. "The goal was the icing on the cake but I had a couple of nice assists and I like to be involved anyway I can whether it's scoring or setting them up and it all came together with my teammates today."
With the win, the T-Birds early season record improves to (1-0-1) following an opening night 1-1 draw Friday evening against the Fraser Valley Cascades in Abbotsford. The 'Birds get back at it next weekend hosting the Thompson Rivers University Wolfpack on Friday, September 7 at 6:30 p.m. On Saturday, September 8 it's a visit from the UBC Okanagan Heat at 6:30 p.m. both games will take place at Thunderbird Stadium.
The Spartans will look to bounce back with a road trip to the University of Northern B.C. for games on Friday and Saturday.
PHOTO: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds