It was a heartbreaking end to the Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-18s’ season and the youth careers of many Whitecaps players, as the ‘Caps fell 2-1 to the powerful FC Dallas U-18s in extra time of the 2015-16 United States Soccer Development Academy U-17/18 final at the US National Development Center in Carson, California on Saturday night.
The game served as a rematch of 2012 USSDA final when FC Dallas was victorious over the Whitecaps 3-2 in Vancouver’s inaugural Development Academy season.
The loss not only brought an end to the U-18s’ season, but also ended the Whitecaps’ miraculous 34-game unbeaten streak going back to their third game of the season on September 20th, 2015.
The young ‘Caps fought hard throughout the 120 minutes, however, and had the lead and the upper hand for the majority of the game.
19-year-old Ottawa native, Vana Markarian, got Vancouver off to a strong start in the 10th minute, guiding a corner kick from Coquitlam’s David Norman into the back of the FC Dallas goal.
The young Whitecaps were relentless in their attack, outclassing the Dallas players and almost doubling their lead at several points in the game, the most notable coming in the 21st minute, when Terran Campbell headed a cross from Michael Baldisimo into the post and Gloire Amanda’s rebound attempt went just wide of the Dallas goal.
For the remainder of the first half and most of the second, the ‘Caps were in control of the game with 18-year-old goalkeeper, Aidan Aylward, coming up with big saves for Vancouver when necessary.
From the 80th minute onward, however, it looked like there was no stopping FC Dallas.
Dallas’ Devin Vega evened the score at 1-1 in the 81st minute and FC Dallas pressed on threatening to score the go-ahead goal to win the championship. Fortunately, Aylward came up with huge saves in the final minutes of regulation time to keep the ‘Caps alive.
Heading into extra time, it looked as if the tired Whitecaps were aiming for the lottery of penalties against FC Dallas’ second-choice keeper after an injury to their starter in the second half, but it was not to be.
The Texan team pressed hard again with the continued vigour of their play at the end of the second half. While the ‘Caps fought valiantly to keep the score tied, substitute Juan Ramirez blasted a shot behind Aylward for the winning goal in the 106th minute.
While Vancouver fought on looking for an equaliser in the final 14 minutes, FC Dallas was too strong and took the 2-1 win after 120 minutes.
With the victory, FC Dallas became the first team to win the double of the U-16 and U-18 championships in the same season after their U-16 team was victorious over the LA Galaxy earlier in the day.
This season marked the end of the youth careers of 11 Whitecaps players. Goal-scorer Vana Markarian, Andre Baires, Quinn Bredin, Eric de Graaf, Patrick Izett, Cole Morokhovich, David Norman, Marcello Polisi, Frazer Poulter, Daniel Sagno, and Luciano Trasolini are all heading off to American schools to start their college careers.
The final is only a stepping stone for players like Terran Campbell, Kadin Chung, and Thomas Gardner who have professional appearances with WFC2 under their belt, proving the effectiveness of the Whitecaps residency program. Fellow WFC2 player, Matthew Baldisimo, also featured heavily throughout the USSDA season and the Whitecaps’ newest senior signing, 15-year-old Alphonso Davies, had appearances with both the U-16 and U-18 teams this season.
With a strong season, a promising class of U-16s coming up through the ranks, and a great coaching staff lead by head coach Raegyn Hall, the future of the Whitecaps residency looks bright. Expect more youth players to make the jump to WFC2 and the senior team soon.
Substitutes: Bair for Amanda (71′), Polisi for Mi. Baldisimo (74′), Verhoeven for Norman (106′)
Unused Substitutes: Trasolini, Bredin, Poulter, Escobar