Everything was on the line for Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-16 Residency (2W-0L-1D) as they entered into their final group stage match of the United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) playoffs against South Carolina United Battery (1W-2L-0D) on Friday.
Even with a result, for the ‘Caps to seize the lone berth into the next stage they knew they would not only require a positive result, but also a little bit of luck in Charlotte Soccer Academy’s (2W-0L-1D) final match to help them edge out top spot on goal differential. While the ‘Caps would defeat South Carolina Battery 3-2, unfortunately the win was not enough and ended their run to be one of the final eight teams at USSDA Finals Week.
“We managed the entire match well and treated the game much like the first game of the season,” explained Residency head coach Craig Dalrymple to whitecapsfc.com. “That's the process of development, that they could go into this scenario and learn how to compose themselves with the right level of intensity. With the short term heartache of not advancing to the final eight, that's an important thing they can take from this outcome that will serve them well in the future.”
It was another hot morning in Frisco, Texas and with temperature in the high 30's the team knew they’d be battling the heat as much as the opposition. With so much at stake, the Blue and White came flying out of the gate to take an early 1-0 lead as ‘Caps leading scorer Brody Huitema deftly finished a cross from Sam Adekugbe around the five-minute-mark.
The lead wouldn’t last long however, as Charlotte would level things in the ninth minute when ‘Caps goalkeeper Nolan Wirth was chipped just outside the box to make things 1-1.
Both sides enjoyed spells of possession throughout the remainder of the first half, but the ‘Caps would get an important opportunity at the 30-minute-mark when they were awarded a penalty shot after Matthew Chow was fouled in the box. A composed Sebastian Cabrera stepped up to take the shot and once again gave Whitecaps FC the lead at 2-1.
In the second half the Battery pressed on the attack but the ‘Caps did well to hold their defensive shape. In a mirror-image of their last goal, Chow was brought down in the box a second time and Cabrera once again delivered on the penalty-kick to add to the lead and make things 3-1 after 59 minutes of play.
With Charlotte playing their final match at the same time and up 2-0, the ‘Caps knew they’d need to score another to catch up on goal differential. Unfortunately pushing a high line left Whitecaps FC vulnerable to the attack and the Battery would pull one back in the 80th minute following a scramble on a corner kick to end the match at 3-2.
Despite going undefeated in their string of playoff matches, Charlotte barely pulled ahead of the ‘Caps to move on to USSDA Finals Week. “We got into the playoffs as one of the top thirty teams in the country and managed to come out undefeated,” explained Dalrymple. “To be honest, we were unlucky not to win all three games. That's a testament to how far the boys have developed and grown over the season and I'm already optimistic about next year and what more development we can achieve with this group of players.”
Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency U-16
Nolan Wirth; Matthew van der Eyden, Alex Comsia, Jackson Farmer (Quinton Duncan 14’), Sam Adekugbe; Liam Elbourne, Mitch Piraux, Marco Bustos (Titouan Chopin 49’ (Kalifala Konney 65’)); Matthew Chow (Parker Ellis 70’), Sebastian Cabrera (Jordan Haynes 58’), Brody Huitema