It’s been a superb weekend for Vancouver soccer from a record breaking home attendance for the Canadian men’s national team on Friday at BC Place, to matching 1-0 victories from both Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Whitecaps FC 2, all the way to a 2-1 Canadian U-20 upset over England on the backs of goals from Whitecaps players Kadin Chung and Marco Bustos.
Although both teams were rocked by numerous international call-ups, with the senior team missing Marco Bustos, Marco Carducci, Christian Bolanos, Kendall Waston, Blas Perez, and Tim Parker, and WFC2 lacked stand-outs Kadin Chung and Alphonso Davies, both teams displayed their depth in their victories on Saturday night.
However, with both games starting at 7 PM, fans had to be creative to watch the games. I streamed both games side by side to get the full Whitecaps experience.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 1 – 0 Houston Dynamo
The senior team improved their 2016 record to 2W-2L-0D from a Pedro Morales penalty in the 23rd minute when Masato Kudo was brought down in the box. While the result was a positive one for the team and they played well, it is worrisome that out of the five goals the ‘Caps have scored so far this season, four have come from Morales at the penalty spot. It is positive that the Whitecaps have been able to draw penalties and Morales can slot them away calmly and confidently, but if Carl Robinson’s men look to match their success from last season, they’ll need more goals from the run of play.
It should be considered a success, however, that the ‘Caps were able to pull off the three points while missing top first team players and substitutes to international duty. If Vancouver wants to continue signing top-quality international players, Robinson will need to make sure that the squad has enough depth for games such as these.
Despite the winning result against a skilled Dynamo side, one of the worrisome signs was head coach Carl Robinson’s substitutions. In the past, Robinson hasn’t been afraid to make offensive substitutions late in the game, even with a lead. It was common to see a player such as now retired striker Robert Earnshaw to come on as a late sub to increase the lead for the ‘Caps. However, with the slim lead on Saturday, Robinson replaced two offensive players in Christian Techera and Kudo with defenders Sam Adekugbe and Jordan Smith. By the end of the 90 minutes, the Whitecaps had six defensive outfield players on the pitch. Hopefully this is only a side effect of the international call-ups and not a sign of things to come.
Finally for the senior team, new signing Andrew Jacobson, who lead NYCFC in 2015 with minutes played, had a successful first game with the ‘Caps strengthening the backline after Parker and Waston’s call-ups decimated the centreback position. He played well enough to earn himself the title of Man of the Match. If Jacobson continues strong performances such as these, expect to see him with a regular spot somewhere in the starting eleven soon.
The Whitecaps are looking to ride their two game winning streak into next week when they take on the LA Galaxy at home on April 2nd.
Starting Eleven and Substitutes
Substitutions: Adekugbe (CAN) for Techera (69’), Smith for Kudo (78’), Mezquida for Manneh (86’)
Unused Substitutes: Tornaghi, Seiler, Hurtado, Flores
Whitecaps FC 2 1 – 0 Orange County Blues FC
Meanwhile in Irvine, California, Whitecaps FC 2 got their USL season off to a great start with a 1-0 victory over Orange County Blues FC. An unbeaten eight-week preseason prepared WFC2 for a challenging game against the 2015 Western Conference regular season champions, which paid off in a big way.
The Thundercaps were short on depth, however, as the international window took frequent senior loanees Marco Carducci and Marco Bustos, while WFC2 players Kadin Chung and Alphonso Davies were also called to represent Canada. Coupled with the injury to 2015 standout Victor Blasco, the baby ‘Caps were forced down to a five-man bench.
Despite facing one of the strongest USL teams of 2015 and missing many top players, WFC2 pulled off the dramatic win from a Mitch Piraux free kick that striker Kyle Grieg nodded easily by Blues keeper Brandon Miller in the 59th minute. Orange County could never be counted out though as they continuously pressed the ‘Caps. Former Whitecaps youth product, Sean Melvin, proved he learned a lot in his time at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington, however, as he earned a clean sheet in his first professional match.
Another notable aspect of WFC2’s win, was the number of Canadians they utilised over the course of the game. With eight Canadians in the starting eleven and three more coming into the game as substitutes, it is clear that at least Whitecaps FC 2 do not hate Canada. With four Canadians also off on international duty for the game, expect to see consistent appearances from red and white players over the course of the USL season.
The baby ‘Caps look to make it two in a row when they take on Cascadian rivals Portland Timbers 2 next week at Merlo Field in Portland on April 2nd.
Starting Eleven and Substitutes
Substitutions: Frano (CAN) for Gardner (67’), Campbell (CAN) for Levis (83’), Baldisimo (CAN) for Piraux (86’), Green for Haber (93’)
Unused Substitutes: Richey