Whitecaps FC U-23 set for Northwest Division playoff clash against Portland
VANCOUVER, BC - Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 (7W-4L-3D) are set to face Portland Timbers U-23 (7W-3L-4D) in a United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League (PDL) divisional playoff match on Tuesday, July 23, at Doc Harris Stadium in Washington. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. PT.
It’s a matchup between the second-seeded Timbers and third-seeded Whitecaps FC of the PDL’s Northwest Division. The top three teams in the division qualified for the playoffs.
The young ‘Caps return to the PDL playoffs for the first time since 2008, when the Blue and White made it all the way to the national semifinal before losing 2-1 to the eventual champion Thunder Bay Chill. On their way to the national semifinal, Vancouver first defeated San Fernando Valley Quakes in the conference semifinal before extinguishing Tacoma Tide 4-1 in the conference final.
Current 'Caps U-23 midfielder Gagandeep Dosanjh, who has been sidelined most of this season after undergoing knee surgery, was a member of that 2008 team.
WHITECAPS FC U-23
The ‘Caps clinched a playoff berth by virtue of a 1-0 win over Washington Crossfire last Saturday at UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium. Striker Niall Cousens snatched the winner for the club that afternoon. The U-23’s capped off their regular season in style Wednesday night with a convincing 4-1 victory over North Sound SeaWolves FC.
Stuart Neely’s side finished the season strong, only losing one of their final eight matches, going 4W-1L-3D during that stretch.
“I think the boys have really come together and become a band of brothers if you will,” commented Neely. “They’ve had a great run going into the playoffs, with winning the Juan de Fuca Plate, the draw against Portland, and finishing the season strong with the wins against Washington Crossfire and North Sound. They’ve got a couple of days rest here and need to regroup.”
Cousens led the ‘Caps in scoring in the regular season with eight goals in 13 appearances. The UBC-bound striker was also tied for the team lead in assists with four. Midfielder Harpreet Lakhan chipped in with six goals in 11 matches.
PORTLAND TIMBERS U-23
Coming off a formidable season themselves, the Timbers secured a playoff spot with a 1-1 draw versus Vancouver on July 12. The Timbers are no strangers to the PDL playoffs, having qualified for the post-season four of out the last five seasons. In 2010, they were crowned PDL champions.
The Timbers were very sound defensively throughout the regular season, conceding only 12 goals in 14 matches — the fewest in the Northwest division.
“They’re stingy,” added Neely. “No matter how hard you get at them, they prevent goals. They come at you, they don’t give you a minute on the ball, and that’s how they stop you from scoring.”
HEAD TO HEAD
The Cascadia Cup rivals have battled several times since Portland Timbers U-23 joined PDL in the 2009 campaign. In the past five seasons, the ‘Caps have a record of 1W-7L-2D versus the Timbers.
Vancouver have faced Portland twice during the 2013 regular season, dropping a 2-0 result in Portland back on May 23 and earning a hard fought 1-1 draw last week at home. Colton O’Neill scored for the ‘Caps on 22 minutes before Portland equalized through Zach Foxhoven three minutes later.
The winner of Tuesday night’s contest will advance to PDL’s Western Conference Championship, featuring the top two teams from the league’s Northwest and Southwest Divisions. The date and venue for that match is still to be determined.