The Western Conference semi-finals. Today’s match was a new milestone for the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2. Facing off against OKC Energy, the young caps were favoured to win, 63.1% – 36.9%, when home field advantage was factored in using the ELO data we have at NSXI. Discounting the home field, the odds would flip, with only a 49% chance of victory for Vancouver. With such close odds, this promised to be a very close match, and neither side would disappoint.
Both sides played very cautiously for the first 20′, with neither side taking chances and pressing the competition. Both teams had quite divergent playing styles, with OKC Energy known for their set-plays, while Vancouver is known for their damaging counter-attacks. Nothing would really start until after the first yellow cards, with Seymore grabbing the first at 20′ for Vancouver, and Thomas getting his yellow in the 22′ for OKC. Both sides kicked it into gear at this point, but it would fall to a Froese free kick from 30-yards out to open the scoring. With the kick clearing the back line, it would bounce once off the field, past the keeper and deep into the net.
Vancouver would get another great chance in the 37′. Levis would pass through traffic to Gardner. Sadly, the shot went wide of the net, leaving the match at 1-0 for the home team. The visitors would make a great attempt to level the match only 2 minutes later, when a deep run by OKC would bounce off a young Whitecap and harmlessly out of play. The play would turn around again with a great run back across the field yielding another Froese shot that would go mere inches wide of the net. Vancouver would spend much of the remainder of the half on their back heels with Richey making a phenomenal save in the 42′, and a 44′ header off a corner kick thankfully going high over the net. In the dying minutes of injury time, Levis would have a dangerous roll over his ankle sending him to the turf writhing in pain and worrying Caps fans. The half would end seconds later, with VWFC2 leading 1-0 over OKC.
The second half started with a sigh of relief as Levis would return to the field. There were no subs to start the half. The 2nd half would start where the first left off, with Vancouver firmly stuck on the defensive. A great counter-attack in the 48′ would see Chung string the OKC defenders along behind him, pass it over to Gerig who would finish, sending the VWFC2 up 2-0 over OKC. The Whitecaps 2 seemed to fall apart after that, with OKC spending a lot of time in the Whitecap half. In the 56′, Konig would put the ball past Richey and into the netting, but with him easily offside, the goal would not count. Konig would get OKC’s first goal only a few minutes later in the 60′ off a pass that was almost off the field.
With the Whitecaps suffering, Sanner would be subbed in during the 72′ and help the team regain their composure, for about a minute. The side quickly returned to defensive play, giving OKC corner-kick after corner-kick. Pitter would tie the match in the 80′ following the repeated pummeling of the home side. A quick turn-around would give the Whitecaps 2 their first real good run of the half, with a shot from Haber going high. The following corner kick would go off the head of Sanner and go wide of the net, returning it to OKC’s possession. Once again, play would be dominated by the visitors.
In the 89′, just as the announcers were beginning to explain what would happen in the case of a tie, Haber would finish. With some fancy footwork, he snuck across the OKC defense and sent it along the ground into the netting. VWFC2 took the lead, 3-2. The remaining 6 minutes of injury time would be a long grind, with slow goal-kicks and distant clearances set to drag out the remaining time.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 were victorious, with a 3-2 final score over OKC Energy. For the first time in history, they would advance to the Western Conference Finals. They will face the winner of the Orange County Blues vs Swope Park Rangers match, with the possibility of hosting it at UBC. There’s plenty more history for VWFC2 to make in this USL post-season. We can hardly wait for those conference finals.