Sometimes, when you work hard enough, everything just falls into place.
Just ask Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-18 (2W-1L-0D).
With a berth in the United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) Final Eight on the line, Whitecaps FC rose to the occasion bright and early Thursday morning, defeating Texans SC Houston (0W-3L-0D) 2-0 in their final fixture in the round of 32.
A few fields over, Weston FC (2W-1L-0D) upset Pateadores (2W-1L-0D) with a surprising 4-0 victory, putting both teams in a tie with the Whitecaps atop Group 2 with six points apiece.
Fortunately for the ‘Caps, with a goal differential of +5, they hold the tiebreaker and will therefore move on to the USSDA Finals Week July 16-23 at the newly built BBVA Compass Stadium, home of Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo.
“It was a fantastic result for the boys and a fantastic result for the club,” Whitecaps FC first team assistant coach Paul Ritchie told whitecapsfc.com. “We made the finals, and that’s the main reason we were here. I’m so proud of the boys. They certainly deserve it.”
It just seemed like everything was going Vancouver’s way Thursday morning in Frisco, Texas, as the young ‘Caps opened the scoring just six minutes into the match.
After a goal-mouth scramble in front of the Texans net, the loose ball popped up to midfielder Ben McKendry who headed home the rebound to give the ‘Caps an early advantage. It was McKendry’s third goal of the postseason, having scored in each of the team’s three contests this week.
There’s no doubt McKendry’s marker set the tone for the match and gave the ‘Caps the confidence they needed to settle in and play their game.
Looking to double their lead and take a stranglehold on this important Group 2 affair, the ‘Caps seemed to shift to another gear around the 10-minute mark after goalkeeper Callum Irving made a nice save off a Texans corner.
Midfielder Ben Fisk, who was pulled down in the box just minutes later, was dangerous around the Texans final third, as was striker Yassin Essa, but neither could find the back of the net as the ‘Caps took their 1-0 lead into the half.
The ‘Caps continued to dictate the tempo in the second half and with the Texans pushing numbers forward looking for an equalizer, they doubled their lead in the 65th minute off a quick counterattack.
After Essa received the heads-up goal kick from Irving, he crossed it to the back post where striker Sadi Jalali took a touch to beat his defender before finishing to give the ‘Caps a 2-0 lead — a lead they would hold onto to secure a berth in next month’s USSDA Academy Finals Week.
Advancing to the national championship is no doubt one of the Residency program’s greatest accomplishments to date. This becomes even truer when you consider the ‘Caps are the lone Canadian club in the USSDA, which is America’s premier youth academy system.
“They worked very hard all year. It’s been a long season for them,” Residency assistant coach Martin Nash told whitecapsfc.com. “It’s brilliant to have a team that the club invests so much interest in to be successful. But the boys don’t want to stop here, they want to go and try to win it all.”
Just as Ritchie said, “now the hard work begins again.”
Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-18 Residency
Callum Irving; Declan Rodriguez, Tim Hickson (Jason van Blerk ’80), Daniel Stanese, Adam Polakiewicz; Ben McKendry, Alex Rowley, Bryce Alderson (Carlos Patino ’78); Ben Fisk (Spencer De Boice ’70), Carlos Marquez (Sadi Jalali ’45), Yassin Essa (Wesley Cain ’65)