First weekend of play for USL in 2017 comes with most MLS teams on hiatus. This means that many of the “2” or “II” teams get to benefit from loaned players. Of course, they don’t get the cream of the crop, with International play taking most of the best players from the league, but a lot of the guys that sit as unused (or rarely used) substitutes get a chance to see some much-needed minutes in order to hone their play. In the case of Whitecaps 2, eight players were loaned: Spencer Richey (GK), Christian Dean (D), Jake Nerwinski (D), Cole Seiler (D), Marcos Bustos (M), Deybi Flores (M), Ben McKendry (M), and Kyle Greig (F).
Naturally, first-team players formed the bulk of the starting line, and excepting Bustos’ absence from the game-day roster, only Nerwinski would be denied a full 90 minutes, being subbed out in the 89th. With 7 players from the 1st-team on field, one would expect a pretty high-quality of play from the WFC2 as they took on Galaxy 2, who similarly benefited from 1st-team loans. In essence, thanks to the International break, this was a battle of the substitutes.
I haven’t watched any LA Galaxy matches yet this season, but I’ve managed to take in all of the Whitecaps matches. The loaned players, definitely remind me of the way the 1st-team plays. It’s a slower match, with the team generally trying to play defensively, and relying on a quick counter in order to sneak in a goal. Much like the 1st team, their strategy failed. For most of the 1st half, it didn’t seem too bad. The two teams faced off fairly evenly in the first half, discounting the own-goal from WFC2’s Captain Sem de Wit in the 6th minute. The own goal was nothing special, an attempt to head it away instead saw the ball just beyond de Wit’s proper range, so it is easy to overlook the grazing that sadly put it in the net (except in the scoreline of course).
In truth, by the end of the 1st half, the Mini-Whitecaps were ahead in possession, duels won, and even arial duels. From a skills standpoint, they had an edge. Those numbers would continue to favour WFC2 throughout the match, but Galaxy II would present itself as the better side. Midway through the 2nd half, Ethan Zubak would give the home-side an insurance goal, and with both sides suffering exhaustion, that goal sealed the match.
Let’s take a quick look at the players. Richey is 3rd-keeper for the 1st-team, which is likely going to make him the starting keeper for most, if not all, of WFC2’s matches moving forward. Richey managed a number of really sharp saves, which will give the team some strength in net. Although many of the other 1st-team players saw full-time, only Ben McKendry warranted real attention. He showed a lot of activity, and managed some pretty good footwork throughout the match. I expect to see him play most of his minutes with the 1st-team this year.
As for the regular WFC2 players, there isn’t much to say. The few that managed to get playing time, went virtually unnoticed next to their 1st-team counterparts. WFC2 is very much a development team, which gives them the opportunity to give players like WFC Residency products Thomas Gardner and Terran Campbell, some time on field. It was Campbell’s first professional start, and residency call-up Gloire Amanda was subbed in the 79th for his 1st professional match.
The team is rough, and there’s a lot of work to be done. It’s not even close to the level that WFC2 closed out last season, and a lot of that has to do with a pretty high turnover from 2016. Hopefully Rich Fagan, the new coach, will be able to find his footing and get these lads working together as a team. Hopefully he’ll also instill a lot more discipline in these young players than we’ve seen from the 1st-team so far this season.
WFC2 have the chance to fool Reno 1868 on April 1st, before holding their 1st home-match of the season against Seattle Sounders FC 2 on April 8th.