A breezy Sunday afternoon saw Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency (4W-1L-2D) earn a 2-1 home win over Portland Timbers U-23's (4W-4L-1D) in United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League (PDL) action on Bell Pitch at Empire Field.
Coming off a 2-1 victory over British Columbia rivals Victoria Highlanders FC last weekend, the young 'Caps were looking for a strong effort against the defending PDL champions, having added some Major League Soccer flavour to their roster for this PDL Western Conference, Northwest Division clash.
With Wes Knight, Long Tan, Russell Teibert, and Blake Wagner in Residency head coach Richard Grootscholten's line-up, the Resdiency team looked to field an offensively-minded squad to match the a powerful Portland attack, which has produced 16 goals in eight league matches - the second most in the Northwest Division.
Both sides got off to a good start, but it was the 'Caps with the game’s first chance. On nine minutes, Teibert took a Tan feed and sailed a strike over the Portland crossbar on a beautiful left-footed volley on 14 minutes. The U-23 Timbers replied with an attack of their own three minutes later, as striker Brent Richards took a Portland cross and just missed converting the opportunity.
In what quickly became a back-and-forth affair, Carlos Marquez had a wonderful opportunity on 22 minutes to notch the game's first goal, but U-23 Timbers goalkeeper Garrett Staples was on hand to make one of two saves on the day.
It was on 29 minutes that the game’s first goal was produced by two Vancouver MLS players. Showing incredible patience and touch, Knight fed a perfect cross to the head of Tan, who scored for the second consecutive PDL match in East Vancouver and hand the Residency team a 1-0 halftime lead.
That advantage was quickly taken away, as Portland came storming out the gate to start the second half. On 48 minutes, a corner from the U-23 Timbers' Sean Morris was knocked home by Ryan Kawulok, despite the efforts of 'Caps goalkeeper Callum Irving.
Whitecaps FC substitute Caleb Clarke came in on 61 minutes and had an almost immediate impact, converting a strike after a marvellous pass from midfielder Fisk on 67 minutes to restore Vancouver's lead.
Several substitutions by both sides saw the pace of the action maintained, as Portland pushed back for the equalizer, while Clarke seemed to be a one-man force for the 'Caps, as he came close with a headed chance on 79 minutes. The final minutes saw the U-23 Timbers make one last push to find a leveller, but the Residency team were able to secure a hard-fought 2-1 victory and extend their unbeaten streak in the PDL to six matches.
Although happy with the result, Grootscholten saw plenty of room for improvement in his squad, who find themselves in second place in the PDL's Northwest Division after seven matches played. "The 2-1 result is good, but we're not satisfied with the way we played," he told whitecapsfc.com. "We like to play possession out of our backline and Portland played us with pressure high up the pitch, and we're not really used to that. Some of our players panicked a bit, but that’s why we play these games. That's why we talk with the players and show them the video of these games. I thought the last 30 minutes were much better, as we got our confidence back by putting fresh players in and we controlled the game until the end."
Whitecaps FC Residency will have a week to prepare for next Sunday's PDL home match versus Washington Crossfire. The game will take place at Coquitlam's Percy Perry Stadium at 4 p.m. PT. The U-23 Timbers, meanwhile, return home to host Tacoma Tide next Saturday night.
29’ - VAN - Long Tan (Wes Knight)
48’ - POR - Ryan Kawulok (Sean Morris)
67’ - VAN - Caleb Clarke (Ben Fisk)
Shots: Portland 14 – Vancouver 17
Saves: Portland 2 – Vancouver 6
Fouls: Portland 13 – Vancouver 6
Offside: Portland 0 – Vancouver 6
Corners: Portland 8 – Vancouver 9
89’ – POR – Travis Bowen
Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency
30.Callum Irving; 5.Derrick Bassi, 12.Tim Hickson, 15.Blake Wagner, 17.Wes Knight; 10.Ben Fisk (13.Spencer DeBoice 83’), 18.Ben McKendry, 23.Russell Teibert, 25.Alex Rowley; 16.Long Tan (7.Cornelius Stewart 73’), 24.Carlos Marquez (9.Caleb Clarke 61’)
Subs not used: 30.Sean Melvin, 2.Declan Rodriguez, 3.La'Vere Corbin-Ong, 19.Jason van Blerk
Portland Timbers U-23
1.Garrett Staples; 11.Reed Matte, 12.Jesus Gonzalez (21.Nosa Iyoha 74'), 13.Dylan Tucker (30.Travis Bowen 77'), 19.Ryan Kawoluk; 4.Sean Morris (5.Ricky Dorrego 73’), 15.Steven Evans, 16.Roberto Farfan (17.Francisco Vizcaino 56'), 29.Luis Esteves (14.Ricky Abrego 65’); 10.Brent Richards, 20.Erik Hurtado (31.Miles Byass 65’)
Subs not used: 0.Jason Dodson