VANCOUVER, BC - Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 are looking to extend their reign as Juan de Fuca Plate holders when they host their first home match of the season against Victoria Highlanders FC in United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League (PDL) action this Friday. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. PT at Thunderbird Stadium.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC U-23
The ‘Caps are looking to rebound in their home opener, coming off a three-game season-opening road trip in which a late goal in each match denied the Blue and White their first win of the young season.
“Results don't necessarily show how well our performances have been, bringing in new players and learning a new system does take time," Whitecaps FC U-23 head coach Niall Thompson told whitecapsfc.com. "Saying that, the players have responded brilliantly and now know what is expected of them.”
Their most recent contest against Portland Timbers U-23 exemplified the type of game that this 'Caps squad can play. For much of the contest, Vancouver controlled the flow of play and worked to get after every loose ball. Their offense was opportunistic, the epitome of which was the goal by Cody Cook in the 40th minute. It was a complete team effort, with several passes completed perfectly to break down Timbers defense before Cook found himself alone with the Portland keeper. That kind of creativity and skill level is something Thompson's side flashes with increasing consistency each week.
This week's match will see the addition of MLS first team midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy for Friday night’s contest. This match will be Ballouchy’s first on-pitch action since he injured his ACL in August of last season while with San Jose Earthquakes.
Thompson was excited for the addition of Ballouchy, but at the same time, aware that he is only just returning to game action. “We know we'll get a quality of experience and skill which will help our younger players, but coming back from injury, we'll gauge his minutes.”
VICTORIA HIGHLANDERS FC
After beating Vancouver in Victoria on May 4, Highlanders FC haven’t been particularly busy. Their solitary match since their showdown with the ‘Caps was a 1-1 draw with Kitsap Pumas last Saturday.
Despite only playing two matches, Victoria sits first in the PDL’s Northwest Division with four points to open up their 2014 campaign. Wes Barrett has been a hero in Victoria’s first two matches. In the tilt with Vancouver, it was Barrett’s tally at 84 minutes that tied the score, giving a chance for Riley O’Neill's stoppage time stunner. In the draw against Kitsap, it was Barrett who set up Blair Sturrock with a beautiful through-ball for the tying goal in the 78th minute.
“Victoria will always be well organized and experienced but we felt unlucky in our last meeting," said Thompson of Friday's opponents. "We'd like to put that right.”
The ‘Caps have an all-time record of 6W-4L-4D against Victoria Highlanders FC since they joined the PDL in 2009, including a 3W-2L-2D record at home.
JUAN DE FUCA PLATE
The Juan de Fuca Plate is a fan-supported trophy that is given to the best British Columbia-based team in the PDL. The Juan de Fuca Plate competition used to include Vancouver, Victoria, and Fraser Valley Mariners, but Fraser Valley dropped out following the trophy’s inaugural 2012 season.
With only the ‘Caps and Highlanders left to fight over the Juan de Fuca Plate, the two game series between the two sides is all that determines the winner. The winner of the Plate can be determined by four possible factors:
The side with more total points earned over both matches will win
If total points is tied, the side with the greater aggregate goal differential will win
If aggregate goal differential is tied, the side with the greater aggregate goals for will win
If aggregate goals for is tied, the side with the greater aggregate away goals will win
With Victoria winning the first match of the season between the two clubs by a 3-2 final score, the Blue and White can only defend their title as Juan de Fuca Plate champions if they beat Victoria by more than one goal or, in a win by one goal, prevent Highlanders FC from scoring three or more. A draw or Whitecaps FC loss would give Victoria the title. If the match happens to end in a 3-2 Vancouver victory, the winner of the Juan de Fuca Plate will be decided by a penalty shootout (which will not count towards the PDL standings).
The ‘Caps will play hosts to Kitsap Pumas on Wednesday, May 28. The second match of the season between the two clubs will take place at Perry Percy Stadium in Coquitlam, BC. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. PT.