Playing in their second of three consecutive road matches within the span of a week, Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 (5W-4L-3D) earned an important point on the road against defending PDL champions Kitsap Pumas (7W-2L-2D) in Bremerton, Washington, on Friday evening.
Both teams entered Friday's clash riding the crest of streaks, with the ‘Caps being victorious in their prior three matches and the conference-leading Pumas side having gone unbeaten in their six previous games. A win was not on the cards, however, and both clubs would emerge unscathed in a 0-0 draw.
"I thought we played like we want to play, played our style, created a lot of chances, but unfortunately their keeper made a couple of fantastic saves and we were unable to score," explained assistant coach Martin Nash, who also found himself in the line-up on Friday night. "Myself and goalkeeper coach Raegyn Hall had to go on the roster for the game tonight, so that we had enough bodies. But fortunately, the guys came to battle and worked hard, so they didn't have to use us."
It was a drizzling rainy evening when the match finally got underway at Bremerton Memorial Stadium in front of the 228 people. With a portion of the 'Caps regular squad away with the U-18 Residency team for their United States Soccer Development Academy playoff preparations, Whitecaps FC had a sparse line-up with only two regular players on the bench. Looking to steal some points on the road in the hopes of squeezing into a playoff position, the 'Caps came out firing on all cylinders from the first whistle and dominated much of the first 45 minutes of play.
Whitecaps FC striker Coulton Jackson came close to opening up the scoring in the 12th minute, making the most of an interception and rattling a shot off the crossbar. The ‘Caps continued to dominate play for much of the first half, winning the majority of the 50-50 balls and keeping the hosts on their toes by continuously switching out the ball and probing Kitsap's defence to find a crack in the seam.
Kitsap had a number of opportunities of their own, however, with their best coming at the 34-minute mark when Pumas striker Greg Miley played a perfectly weighted ball into the path of an overlapping Daniel Fabian, who squared it just inside the box for Ben Truax. The striker attempted to hit the ball first time, but fired it directly into the outstretched arms of ‘Caps keeper Lucas Menz.
Vancouver's best chance of the first half would come just moments later when defender Bobby Jhutty threaded a ball behind the Pumas backline perfectly, catching Jackson making a run. Jackson found himself one-on-one with Pumas goalkeeper Zac Lubin, who quickly sprinted off his line to challenge. The striker showed perfect composure and cleverly chipped it just over the 'keeper for what looked to be a certain goal, but defender Stephen Mohn was able to get back just in time to clear the ball from the mouth of his goal.
Following the break, the second half turned much more physical, as the ‘Caps turned up the pressure on a frustrated Kitsap in hopes of a much-needed win. At the root of the ‘Caps attack was the speed of midfielder Gagandeep Dosanjh, who was problematic for Pumas up the middle throughout the game. In the 71st minute of play, ‘Caps second-half substitute Sangyoon Hwang flew up left flank and crossed the ball to Dosanjh, who deftly cut in on his defender and even had time to tee up a shot, but fired it just a foot wide of the near post.
As the rain steadily fell on the soggy pitch, the Pumas finally found their second wind and had some good spells of possession. Despite much stronger play from Kitsap, they were still unable to break down Vancouver’s defence. On a number of occasions, the Pumas were able to generate some strong build-up, but the final execution up top was lacking and the majority of their chances were from too far a range to get by Menz.
“I think it was a physical second half, especially because we were holding so much of the ball and it was frustrating them,” Nash told whitecapsfc.com. “They thought that was their way back into the game, but we didn't rise to that level and kept playing our game and creating chances. To play the top of the league team on the road and still feel like you didn’t get what you deserved, I think is a good thing and a good sign of where the team is at."
The game would finally end on a rather unfortunate note for the ‘Caps in stoppage time when striker Michael Marousek was sent off, while debating a non-call after Hwang had been taken down in the box by a Pumas defender.
With the draw, the U-23 'Caps now sit in fifth place in the United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League (PDL) Western Conference, Northwest Division standings, while Kitsap edge out Washington Crossfire by a single point to claim top spot of the conference standings.
The ‘Caps will have a few days rest before their next midweek road match this Wednesday night, June 27, when they visit the second-place Washington Crossfire at 7 p.m. PT in Redmond, Washington. Following that trip, the team returns home to play the first of their final three PDL regular season matches against North Sound SeaWolves FC on Friday, July 6, at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, BC.
Shots: Vancouver 10 - Kitsap 4
Saves: Vancouver 2 - Kitsap 3
Fouls: Vancouver 11 - Kitsap 9
Offsides: Vancouver 5 - Kitsap 3
Corners: Vancouver 5 - Kitsap 4
90+' - VAN - Michael Marousek
1.Zac Lubin; 7.Stephen Mohn, 6.Justin Robbins, 2.Kristoffer Medina, 17.Zack Sampson; 8.Matt Friesen, 11.Kyle Johnson (5.Taylor Hyde 90+'), 15.Elliot Fauske, 18.Daniel James Fabian, 12.Ben Truax, 16.Greg Miley (23.Daniel James Hidalgo 63')
Substitutes not used: 24.Daniel MacLeod, 4.Sam Zipperstein, 13.Drew Jensen, 00.Dustyn Brim
Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23
20.Lucas Menz; 9.Alexander Morrello, 4.Shawn Parkes, 2.James Farenhorst, 5.Bobby Jhutty; 11.Reynold Stewart, 3.Kianz Froese, 16.Gagandeep Dosanjh, 18.Cam Hundal, 17.Coulton Jackson (19.Sangyoon Hwang 62'), 21.Michael Marousek
Substitutes not used: 1.Raegyn Hall, 25.Martin Nash, 20.Tyrin Hutchings