A weekend full of playoff implications came to a close on Sunday for Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency (6W-4L-3D), as they earned a hard-fought 2-2 away draw with Portland Timbers U-23's (5W-5L-3D) in a United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League (PDL) encounter at Hare Field in Hillsboro, Oregon.
The young 'Caps came into the match riding high after Ben Fisk’s late-match heroics sealed a 2-1 victory at Tacoma Tide FC on Friday evening. They found themselves matched up against a U-23 Timbers squad that sat three points behind them in the PDL's Western Conference, Northwest Division standings. As only two clubs from the division advance to the PDL playoffs, it was a match that could make or break the season for both sides, and unsurprisingly, Sunday's game was played with an intensity that justified such importance.
Residency head coach Richard Grootscholten had the services of Major League Soccer roster players Philippe Davies and Alexandre Morfaw in his line-up and they provided experience and stability for the young 'Caps squad. Portland, who were coming off a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of another British Columbia club in Abbotsford Mariners on Friday, looked to keep their fading hopes of a successful PDL championship defence alive with a home result against Vancouver.
The early stages of the match saw both teams show good form and precision play. Portland, perhaps realizing the challenging playoff picture before them, pushed hard for the first goal of the match and they found it on 22 minutes when midfielder Brent Richards managed to have a strike go off the Residency crossbar and go over the goalline for 1-0. The U-23 Timbers sustained the pressure, which saw them register a total of 21 shots in the game. Portland's push to extend the lead was rewarded six minutes later when defender Ryan Kawoluk stepped up to slot a shot past Residency goalkeeper Callum Irving, who worked tirelessly in making nine saves on the day.
Demonstrating a resiliency that has been characteristic of the Residency team this season, the young 'Caps fought back before the end of first half. On 38 minutes, a header from Fisk ricocheted off Portland's Richard Abrego for an own-goal that cut the deficit to 2-1. The Blue and White went immediately back to the attack, and in the same minute, a long strike by Davies found its way past U-23 Timbers goalkeeper Keegan Rogers and into the net to make it 2-2 at halftime.
The second half saw the Residency team continue to dictate the play, putting together a fantastic 30 minutes, where they controlled the pace and strung together some threatening sequences. Unfortunately, there were no similar heroics reminiscent of Friday night, as Portland's substitute goalkeeper Jason Dodson stood tall, making three saves to preserve the draw.
After the match, Grootscholten praised his side for their effort, especially under the hot Oregon sun. "It was unbelievably hot out there today, but we worked exceptionally hard and 2-2 ended up being the result," he told whitecapsfc.com. "We had a fantastic 30 minutes to start the second half and we should have won thanks to that effort. It’s good to see we understand how we have to play and we've shown that this road trip."
Whitecaps FC Residency continue their push for the PDL playoffs with an away fixture against the Northwest Division-leading Kitsap Pumas next Saturday night. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. PT at Bremerton Memorial High School in Bremerton, Washington.
22’ - POR - Brent Richards
28’ - POR - Ryan Kawoluk
38’ - VAN - own-goal
38’ - Philippe Davies (Bryce Alderson)
Shots: Portland 21 - Vancouver 8
Saves: Portland 5 - Vancouver 9
Fouls: Portland 6 - Vancouver 7
Offsides: Portland 1 - Vancouver 3
Corners: Portland 6 - Vancouver 4
31’ - VAN - Alexandre Morfaw
85’ - VAN - La’Vere Corbin-Ong
Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency
1.Callum Irving; 25.Alex Rowley, 5.Derrick Bassi, 4.Daniel Stanese, 3.La’Vere Corbin-Ong; 17.Alexandre Morfaw (12.Tim Hickson 76’), 8.Bryce Alderson (18.Ben McKendry 60’), 16.Philippe Davies (13.Spencer DeBoice 73’); 10.Ben Fisk, 23.Yassin Essa, 9.Caleb Clarke (24.Carlos Marquez 76’)
Subs not used: 30.Sean Melvin, 19.Jason van Blerk, 20.Adam Polakiewicz
Portland Timbers U-23
0.Keegan Rogers (1.Jason Dodson 45’); 11.Reed Matte (7.Thomas Iwasaki 70’), 13.Dylan Tucker, 19.Ryan Kawoluk, 12.Jesus Gonzalez (6.Ricardo Carrillo 57’); 16.Roberto Farfan (5.Ricky Dorrego 62’), 10.Brent Richards, 18.Nick Palodichuk, 22.Luis Esteves (4.Sean Morris 50’); 23.Myles Byass (20.Erik Hurtado 50’), 14.Richard Abrego
Subs not used: 9.Travis Bowen