By BOB MACKIN
Vancouver Whitecaps’ rookie Randy Edwini-Bonsu scored his first goal to give the defending United Soccer Leagues’ First Division champions a 1-0 win over the Carolina RailHawks on Thursday.
The Whitecaps lead the two-game, total goals series which concludes Sunday in Cary, N.C.
Marlon James received a punt from goalkeeper Jay Nolly in the 77th minute and flicked the ball to Edwini-Bonsu who beat Caleb Patterson-Sewell from 18 yards.
“I've been working really hard for this and it finally came at an important time,” said Edwini-Bonsu, a 19-year-old, Ghana-born product of Vancouver’s Premier Development League reserve squad.
Vancouver head coach Teitur Thordarson inserted Edwini-Bonsu into the game in the 57th minute when he removed Charles Gbeke, who led the league with 12 regular season goals.
“Both teams didn't want to lose, so it was more that than the will to win,” Thordarson said. “Both teams didn't want to make too many chances until we made the changes.”
The Whitecaps outshot Carolina 11-7, but Vancouver goalkeeper Jay Nolly was forced to make six saves.
The 16-7-7 RailHawks finished three points behind first-place Portland Timbers, who have a first-round bye. The Whitecaps were 11-10-9 and secured the seventh and last playoff spot. Vancouver’s 2-7-6 road record is the worst among playoff entrants.
“Now everyone has to come together,” Edwini-Bonsu said. “We've had poor road results.”