U-23s McKenna Victoria June 30 2013
David Blair/Portland Timbers

Highlanders FC edge Timbers U-23s, 1-0, in Western Conference final

VENTURA, Calif. — The Portland Timbers U-23s postseason run came to an end Sunday evening, falling 1-0 to Victoria Highlanders FC in the Premier Development League’s Western Conference final at Ventura College.

Featuring an all-Northwest Division matchup, Highlanders FC found what proved to be the game-winning goal in the 16th minute on forward Brett Levis’ third goal of the postseason. The Timbers U-23s had chances at the equalizer throughout the second half, but Highlanders FC were able to hold the lead and booked their place in the PDL championships for the first time in its team history.

Victoria took advantage of a free kick in the first half, and the play led to the game’s only goal. Forward Blair Sturrock slipped a pass into a dangerous area for Levis to break through the Timbers U-23s back line, and Levis, who scored twice in the team’s semifinal win over Ventura County Fusion, had just one player to beat before slotting home a left-footed shot.

The Timbers U-23s had each of their first two postseason matches decided in penalty-kick shootouts, and the team fought down to the final whistle looking to force overtime for a third straight match. Portland midfielders Zach Barnes and Jose Ribas each had close chances, and Highlanders FC goalkeeper Elliott Mitrou was called upon to make a key save in the 75th minute on a shot from outside the area.

Another quality look came for the Timbers U-23s in the 82nd minute as midfielder John McFarlin set up forward Anthony Machionne for a shot from close range, but Machionne lifted his effort over the mark. Highlanders FC endured one last final push by the Timbers U-23s in the final minutes to advance to the PDL championships, to be held Aug. 2-4.

The Timbers U-23s finished the 2013 campaign – their fifth PDL season – with their second straight trip to the Western Conference championships and reached the conference title match for the second time in team history. Portland finished the regular season in second place in the Northwest Division and allowed the fewest goals (12) in the division.