VANCOUVER, BC – Blue skies were the background for a back and forth match that saw Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 (5W-4L-1D) defeat Seattle Sounders FC U-23 (4W-4L-1D) 4-2 at UBC Thunderbird Stadium on Friday. The win propelled the 'Caps into third place in the United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League (PDL) Northwest Division.
It did not take long for the action to begin, as just two minutes in, the home side had their first chance of the match. Bobby Jhutty fired a rocket from just outside the box, but his strike just narrowly flew high of net.
On 12 minutes, Sounders FC rebounded with their own chance as Sean Okoli fired a shot from inside the box, but the ball went just over the net and harmlessly out.
Just one minute later, on 13 minutes, Jhutty scored on his second chance of the match as Niall Cousens controlled the ball, braced against the Seattle defender, and laid the ball off to Jhutty, who took a touch and slid the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
On 24 minutes, Sounders FC leveled the match when defender Steve Mohn sent in a long cross to Okoli, who dove forward for a header that rolled past Melvin to equalize, 1-1.
In the 32nd minute, the ‘Caps came surging back as the pair that connected for the first goal also connected for the second. Cousens ran down the right side of the field and crossed the ball into the box, where Jhutty tapped the ball in with the side of his foot to give the home side the lead once again.
Despite some back and forth play for the rest of the first half, the match entered halftime with the home side in front by a goal.
The ‘Caps carried the momentum once again to start the second half.
On 51 minutes, the ‘Caps nearly increased their lead as striker Sasa Plavsic took a free kick from 30 yards out, but his powerful shot rang off the left post.
10 minutes later, the Rave Green came back when in the 61st minute Sounders FC midfielder Blake Wise took an initial shot that was stopped by Melvin, but Okoli was there to poke in the rebound for his second equalizer of the match, 2-2.
Minutes later, on 65 minutes, Cousens was taken down in the box and a penalty was awarded to the home side. Jhutty easily slotted it home to give his team the lead for the third time, and to earn himself an impressive hat-trick.
On 68 minutes, the home side put the match away. Jhutty took a corner kick and laid it off to Harry Lakhan at the top of the box. Lakhan then hammered an absolute rocket past Earl Edwards and into the top of the net to give the ‘Caps a two-goal cushion going into the final 20 minutes.
As the half wound down, few further chances were produced before the clock finally ticked down and the ‘Caps captured their fifth win of the USL PDL season.
Head of high performance Stuart Neely was very proud of his team's effort on the night against a tough rival.
"I'm pretty happy for the boys," commented Neely on the important win. "We had an awful lot of injuries and a makeshift lineup, so we had to change our tactics and our formation. I can't say enough about the boys. They responded to what the coaching staff asked of them and I'm really impressed with what they did tonight. I'm really happy with all the players. It puts us on a good foot going forward for the next couple of games."
Next up, the Blue and White continue hosting duties as they face Victoria Highlanders FC on Friday, June 28 at UBC Thunderbird Stadium in the final and decisive match for the 2013 Juan de Fuca Plate. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. PT and admission is free to the public.