Playing their United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League (PDL) season opener on Bell Pitch at Empire Field, Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency (0W-1L-0D) fell 2-0 at home to Kitsap Pumas (1W-0L-0D) on Sunday afternoon.
First-half goals by Matt Friesen and Kyle Johnson gave Kitsap a season-opening win in this PDL Western Conference, Northwest Division encounter on the Pacific National Exhibition grounds. The Residency squad were competitive throughout the weekend contest, but unable to find a way past Pumas goalkeeper Bryan Meredith.
"It's great for our group to be playing these PDL games, even though we lost 2-0 today," Residency head coach Richard Grootscholten told whitecapsfc.com. "These PDL teams have experienced players, as many of them are 20 to 25 years of age. You can see the difference in the physical aspects of today's game and how smart they are in certain situations. We had some chances in the first half, but conceding a second goal before halftime made things difficult for us. We pressed higher up the pitch in the second half, but we didn't make a lot of chances, so we will need to improve on that. We did some good things today, and we will get better every week."
Taking charge of his first-ever PDL match, Grootscholten had three members of Vancouver's Major League Soccer squad in his starting XI. Brian Sylvestre started in goal, while Canadian youth international Philippe Davies played in midfield and Alexandre Morfaw partnered West African youngster Doudou Toure in the home side's attack.
Spring sunshine greeted both sets of players for this first-ever PDL match at Empire Field, and it was the Washington State outfit that made the most of their chances in East Vancouver.
The Residency squad started brightly with two early chances. On three minutes, Cornelius Stewart's dangerous run down the right flank allowed the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines international to set up youngster Ben Fisk a strike at goal, but Meredith was equal to the midfielder's effort. Four minutes later, Morfaw played a fine through ball to Toure, with the Mauritanian driving a low shot that Meredith did well to save at his near post.
Kitsap's first goal came on 22 minutes, as Friesen took a pass from Robert Christner before finishing past Sylvestre for a 1-0 Pumas lead.
Whitecaps FC replied positively to falling behind. On 38 minutes, Davies' corner from the left found Morfaw amongst a melee of players in the six-yard box. The Cameroonian was unable to make a clean connection with his shot, as Kitsap cleared the danger away. Five minutes later, Derrick Bassi set up centre back partner Daniel Stanese for a chance in the Pumas box, but the Canadian youth international struck his shot over the Pumas crossbar.
Just before halftime, Kitsap doubled their advantage through Johnson, as the 'Caps were unable to deal with Christner's low cross from the left in front of Sylvestre's goal. It gave the Pumas a two-goal lead at halftime.
The second half saw the Residency squad work hard to regain the initiative with good possession and movement off the ball. With a two-goal advantage, Kitsap seemed content to hit Vancouver on the counter-attack. This resulted in chances on the break for Cameron Hepple and Christner before the hour mark, with Sylvestre doing exceptionally well to stop Christner's close-range shot on 51 minutes.
Looking to find a way back into the match, the young 'Caps had second-half opportunities through midfielder Bryce Alderson on 59 minutes and substitute Caleb Clarke, who forced Meredith into a good save on 81 minutes.
The Residency squad were unlucky not to find the scoresheet in the four minutes of time added on. Substitute Yassin Essa had two fine opportunities for the home side, but the Ethiopian-born attacker was unable to test Meredith on both occasions, as Kitsap claimed all three points in the end.
Whitecaps FC Residency return to PDL action on Friday evening, May 13, as they host British Columbia arch-rivals Abbotsford Mariners. Kickoff at Empire Field is set for 7 p.m. PT. Kitsap, meanwhile, will play another BC-based outfit next Sunday, as they host Victoria Highlanders FC in their PDL home opener.
22' – KIT – Matt Friesen (Robert Christner)
45' – KIT – Kyle Johnson
Shots: Vancouver 10 – Kitsap 12
Saves: Vancouver 4 – Kitsap 5
Fouls: Vancouver 12 – Kitsap 11
Offsides: Vancouver 4 – Kitsap 6
Corners: Vancouver 8 – Kitsap 4
36' - KIT – Kyle Johnson
41' - KIT – Nick Besagno
Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency
30.Brian Sylvestre; 3.La'Vere Corbin-Ong, 4.Daniel Stanese, 5.Derrick Bassi, 2.Declan Rodriguez; 10.Ben Fisk (22.Yassin Essa 63'), 8.Bryce Alderson, 15.Philippe Davies, 7.Cornelius Stewart (12.Tim Hickson 79'); 16.Alexandre Morfaw (17.Carlos Marquez 72'), 21.Doudou Toure (9.Caleb Clarke 63')
Subs not used: 1.Callum Irving, 18.Ben McKendry, 20.Adam Polakiewicz
1.Bryan Meredith; 7.Stephen Mohn, 3.Mark Lee, 5.Taylor Hyde, 6.Daniel Scott; 19.Nick Besagno, 8.Matt Friesen, 9.Cameron Hepple, 2.Kyle Johnson; 20.Tye Perdido (4.David Gray 72'), 11.Robert Christner
Subs not used: 28.Zac Lubin, 17.Sam Roca, 23.Kendell McFayden