Vancouver now meets Portland in next round of playoffs
By Marc Weber
Webmaster is a thankless job. But even club techie Andrew Chobaniuk earned praise after the Whitecaps advanced to face the Portland Timbers in the USL-1 semifinals with a 0-0 tie at the Carolina RailHawks on Sunday.
Vancouver went through 1-0 on aggregate including Thursday's first-leg win at Swangard Stadium.
The key play in Cary, N.C., was Jay Nolly's penalty save on midfielder Daniel Paladini in the 35th minute. Nolly dived to his right to deny the low shot. Teammates thanked Nolly. He gave credit to the coaching staff for doing their homework.
Coach Teitur Thordarson praised Chobaniuk for compiling a penalty-kick package on short notice.
USL-1 game footage isn't readily available, but games are streamed and archived online.
"I just felt it extremely important that we knew exactly their tendencies on penalty kicks," said Thordarson, thinking kicks might decide the series. "Andrew sent me all the penalties and the names of players, so a lot of credit to him also. Paladini had two of them and they both went to that side."
Said Nolly: "Good scouting paid off. I knew I was going all out to that corner."
Just as impressive was the defensive performance from seventh-place Vancouver, a team that had the worst goals-against total of any playoff squad (36 in 30 games) and was 2-7-6 on the road. On top of that, second-place Carolina was 11-2-2 at WakeMed Park and had scored more home goals (32) than any team in the league.
Lyle Martin was nabbed for bringing down Gregory Richardson to grant the penalty kick, but the Caps' right back otherwise did a superb job containing the RailHawks' star through 90 minutes, plus five minutes of stoppage time. Richardson was left at home to rest when Carolina visited Vancouver, a move that almost paid off. But the Caps allowed only three corners and called on Nolly, the club MVP who's played every minute this season, to make routine saves.
"We kept them out wide, hitting long balls in," said the 27-year-old keeper from Colorado. "Defensively, this was one of our best."
Substitute Randy Edwini-Bonsu, who scored the lone goal in the first-leg win, tormented the RailHawks' back line.
And the Whitecaps maintained their composure to spare themselves of any heart-stopping moments down the stretch.
"We were extremely tactical, disciplined and we worked very hard," said Thordarson. "It wasn't too beautiful but we don't care about that."
Vancouver continues its USL-1 title defence at home to Portland on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The return leg is Sunday at 4 p.m. The fifth-place Montreal Impact faces the third-place Puerto Rico Islanders in the other semifinal.
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