Thursday, March 2, 2017 was just a normal day for 16-year-old Alphonso Davies.
He woke up in the morning, got ready, went to high school, talked to his friends, and scored the game-winning goal to make history and put Vancouver Whitecaps FC through to the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League for the first time in club history.
Typical teenager stuff.
After their 1-1 draw on the road against the New York Red Bulls in the first leg of the quarterfinals on February 22, the Whitecaps needed only a 0-0 draw at BC Place to make history by advancing to the semifinals of the Champions League.
However, thanks to goals from wunderkind Davies and debutant Fredy Montero, the ‘Caps provided much more than a boring, scoreless game for the Whitecaps faithful, winning the second leg 2-0 and taking the series 3-1 on aggregate.
With Davies’ goal in the fifth minute putting Vancouver on the front foot early and Montero’s 76th minute strike securing the win, Thursday was a night to remember for the two ‘Caps.
It was especially meaningful for Montero, though, as the Colombian was able to get on the scoresheet in his first appearance in a Whitecaps kit.
After joining the Whitecaps on loan from Tianjin TEDA FC of the Chinese Super League on February 15, the former Seattle Sounders star wasn’t ready for the first leg on the road and when it was announced that new arrival Brek Shea was starting the second leg, Vancouver supporters questioned if the newest Designated Player would get any minutes against the Red Bulls.
Being subbed on in the 66th minute, Montero found himself with space in the box after only 10 minutes on the pitch. Receiving the ball off an Alphonso Davies corner, he blasted it behind Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles.
In only a short time on the pitch, the Colombian veteran looked lethal in front of goal, almost scoring a brace late in the second half.
Bracket from Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Despite their goals and strong performances, Davies and Montero were not the only stars of the game, with the entire team stepping up to the challenge.
While the Red Bulls dominated possession with 72.6% of the time on the ball, the Whitecaps defence stood strong, allowing New York only two shots on target.
Notably, after a poor performance in the first leg, 2017 SuperDraft pick Jake Nerwinski redeemed himself with a strong showing at right back, at least equaling performances made by Fraser Aird and Jordan Smith at the position in 2016.
David Ousted also earned himself his first clean sheet of 2017, with many more expected to come. Although the Great Dane faced only two shots on target, he came up big in the 53rd minute with a leap to save a dangerous Red Bull header.
Finally, after a disappointing performance in front of goal in 2016, the Whitecaps looked dangerous in attack with a front four who all looked like they could find the net.
While Davies and Montero both scored, Marcel de Jong and Kekuta Manneh both forced Robles to make big saves and newly arrived Shea nearly scored his first as a ‘Cap late in the second half, as well.
One of the most exciting aspects of the game, however, was the chemistry between Manneh and Davies. The two young, quick stars looked as if they had played together for years. If their partnership continues, which many Whitecaps supporters hope it will, they will be a treat to watch this year.
Highlights from CONCACAF.
Northern Starting XI Man of the Match: Alphonso Davies
Despite literally being a boy amongst men, the 16-year-old looked like one of the most experienced players on the pitch.
While his run, positioning, and finish for his goal in the fifth minute of the game were nearly flawless, Davies provided much more to the ‘Caps victory.
With none of the main corner takers from 2016 on the field, Davies stepped up to the task and provided a well-placed cross that led to Montero’s goal to secure the win.
Near the end of the game, his patience and hold-up play in the Red Bulls box matched that of even the most experienced veteran. While many young players would go for the shot, especially if they already had a goal to their name, Davies burned precious time off the clock and provided opportunities for both Montero and Shea to score.
If Davies consistently starts throughout the year, which he has certainly earned thus far, and is able to continue this dominant style of play, do not be surprised if Davies quickly becomes the best player on the team.
With the win, the ‘Caps booked their ticket to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals and a series against Tigres UANL of Mexico’s Liga MX.
Mid-March will bring with it the trip to Estadio Universitario in San Nicolas de los Garza, while the return leg at BC Place will occur in early April.
With Tigres winning the 2016 Apertura, the first championship of two in Mexico’s 2016-17 season, the Whitecaps will be in for a challenge, but one that every player will be expected to be up for.
Before that, though, the Whitecaps face the Philadelphia Union in their MLS home opener on Sunday, March 5, before heading to Avaya Stadium to face the San Jose Earthquakes on March 11.
With the MLS season only days away and an exciting team on the pitch, 2017 could be shaping up to be a great year for the ‘Caps.
Wait… so the Caps have a solid D, young, talented & fearless wingers, key veterans, AND a FINISHER⁉️Holy 💩, this could get good.
— Jay DeMerit (@D6MERIT) March 3, 2017
Stats and Lineups:
1-0 Vancouver Whitecaps FC – Alphonso Davies – 5’
2-0 Vancouver Whitecaps FC – Fredy Montero – 76’
Aurelien Collin – New York Red Bulls – 17’
Matias Laba – Vancouver Whitecaps FC – 36’
Russell Teibert – Vancouver Whitecaps FC – 57’
Alphonso Davies – Vancouver Whitecaps FC – 76’
|Vancouver Whitecaps FC||New York Red Bulls|
|Shots on Target||7||2|
Statistical data from Opta.
Substitutes: Montero for de Jong (67’), Jacobson for Manneh (82’)
Unused Substitutes: Tornaghi, Dean, Williams, Bustos, Greig