VANCOUVER, BC – After capturing their second consecutive Juan de Fuca Plate, Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 (5W-4L-2D) are set to face Portland Timbers U-23 (6W-3L-2D) and Washington Crossfire (3W-6L-3D) in a busy weekend that has important United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League (PDL) playoff implications.
Kickoff against Portland Timbers is at 7 p.m. PT on Friday, July 12, while kickoff against Washington Crossfire is set for 1 p.m. PT on Sunday, July 14. Both matches will take place at UBC Thunderbird Stadium.
This season, the top three teams in the Northwest Division make the playoffs. The first-place team receives a bye, while the second and third-place teams face off in a one-match playoff. The 'Caps are currently in third place with 17 points, three points behind second-place Portland Timbers and two points ahead of Sounders FC U-23 and Kitsap Pumas with one and two games in hand on them respectively.
On Friday, June 28, the ‘Caps captured their second consecutive Juan de Fuca Plate - which is a supporters championship awarded to the best PDL team in British Columbia - with a 1-1 draw against Victoria Highlanders FC. Despite going down to 10 men late in the match, the Blue and White secured the title on goal differential.
With that win, Whitecaps FC U-23 find themselves in third place in the Northwest Division and sit three points behind second-place Portland Timbers U-23. A win by more than a goal would put them ahead of their Oregon rivals and into the second playoff spot for the time being.
Head of high performance Stuart Neely’s side has only lost one out of their last five matches, despite having a depleted squad due to injury.
Neely stressed the importance of this weekend’s matches.
“Obviously it’s a big weekend for the group and we come into the weekend with a good couple of results” said Neely. "It’s an important two-game series for us, because we’re battling Seattle and Portland for that second and third spot.”
PORTLAND TIMBERS U-23
Coming into Friday’s match, the Timbers have lost two straight matches against Washington Crossfire and Victoria Highlanders FC. On Friday, June 28, the Timbers fell 3-2 on the road to the Crossfire, while on Sunday, July 30, they fell 2-0 on the road to the division-leading Crossfire.
In the last meeting between Whitecaps FC and Portland on May 23, the ‘Caps fell 2-0 to the Timbers in Portland.
The Crossfire are in the midst of a busy few weeks. Sunday’s match will be the fourth of five matches over a two-week period.
Most recently, the Redmond, Washington side earned a 2-2 draw at home against the Highlanders, with defender Justin Schmidt and forward Christian Roldan netting goals for the home side.
In the last meeting between these two sides, the ‘Caps fell 2-0 in defeat on the road. Neely is looking forward to the chance to rebound against the Crossfire on Sunday.
“We want to ensure we reverse that result,” said Neely. "They are another physical side with university players and a few seasoned players that are helping their cause. They’ve had a few decent results lately and have been sneaking up the table.”
Following this action-packed weekend, the U-23s travel south of the border to wrap-up the regular season against North Sound SeaWolves FC on Wednesday, July 17, at Edmonds Woodway High School in Edmonds, Washington. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. PT.