In case the most recent episode of From The Backline didn't make it clear, I live on Vancouver Island. I'm a proud islander, fiercely loyal to anything and anyone that has a history here and, whenever possible, more than willing to encourage efforts that help us islanders stick it to you mainland folk. Case in point: the Juan de Fuca Plate. Created in 2012 by islanders Drew Shaw and Ted Godwin - two gentlemen I am pleased to share space with in the Victoria Highlanders FC supporters' section as the Lake Side Buoys regale the referees and opposing players with various obscenities and epithets - it was originally meant to be a competition between the three BC-based USL PDL teams: the Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23s, the Victoria Highlanders FC and the Fraser Valley Mariners. When the Mariners folded at the end of the 2012 season, it was down to just the Whitecaps U-23s and the Highlanders. Still, it was enough to engender a ton of passion both on and off the field and remained up until the end of the 2014 PDL season a staple on my and many other islanders' soccer calendars.
As a bridge between the club’s Residency program and MLS first team, WFC2 will replace the club’s U-23 team and allow promising young players to develop in a competitive professional environment.
Well, yeah, but are they going to be exposed to raucous hecklers outside of the tryhards in Portland? We provided a valuable learning experience for those kids: dealing with jerkwad supporters!
But seriously, I was more than a little concerned to see this news. My initial reaction on Twitter is far more muted than my reaction was in person:
The Victoria Highlanders were the first of the two teams to respond, sending this probably-not-totally-joking tweet that I agree with on one hand...
...but on the other hand, I want to serenade the Bryce Aldersons of the world off the pitch when they get red-carded, damn it! I want to be able to chant and counter-chant with the Southsiders who make the trip over to take in the action! I want to scream "TRAITOR!" at the top of my lungs to Brett Levis for wearing the colours of the enemy! In short, I don't want to see this trophy gather dust in a cabinet. I want to see it held up by players and supporters alike as a shining example of what we as fans and supporters can do to help the game of soccer in our cities and our province.
It would appear I'm not alone in that regard, either.
Eighty Six Forever reached out to the front offices of both the Highlanders FC and Whitecaps FC for an official comment on the fate of the Juan de Fuca Plate. First, Highlanders GM Mark deFrias with a reaction to his Salish Sea Derby rivals shutting down their PDL side:
It is bittersweet to see the Whitecaps PDL team no longer participating. In one sense, we always want our Highlanders players challenged in competitive matches, and the Whitecaps PDL team always provided that challenge. In another sense, we need to see young Canadian players challenged at a higher level, and USL Pro will provide that to those players. I commend the Whitecaps, and the other Canadian teams, for their vision and efforts to bring USL Pro to Canada and to assist in creating a long-term development model not only for their teams, but for our country. The Highlanders are a part of a much greater soccer community, and now we have three more professional environments in which we can look to move our players into.
And deFrias' thoughts on the state of the Juan de Fuca Plate:
There has been a lot of speculation that the JDF Plate will be ending, and obviously with the Whitecaps PDL team no longer in existence that speculation has a bit of truth to it; It is ending in it’s current form. That being said, It is an important trophy for our supporters, and therefore it is an important trophy for us. Perhaps a yearly JDF Plate match against the new USL Pro team can be created to allow for this competition to continue. We will have to wait and see, and will need to confer with the representatives of the Whitecaps regarding that opportunity.
As for the club across the Salish Sea, Whitecaps FC confirmed that they "are still in the early planning stages for WFC2 and will consider all options". Here's hoping the option they end up choosing is the one that keeps a local piece of supporter pride alive.