BREMERTON, WA – Vancouver Whitecaps FC knew they were in for a tough battle as they travelled south to face Kitsap Pumas in their home opener, and the match turned out to be anything but boring. Niall Cousens gave the 'Caps an early lead, but a last-second goal by Kitsap midfielder Septi Danciu salvaged a point for the home side.
Though the win eluded them, assistant coach Steve Meadley was pleased overall with the performance.
“We’re really happy that this group is coming together and playing the Whitecaps way," Meadley told whitecapsfc.com. "We’re looking to build from the back, play through the thirds of the field and play an open and attractive style of football.”
The crowd got a flash of that “Whitecaps way” early on, as the Blue and White took control of the pace early, resulting in a few chances, including a free kick just outside the 18-yard box five minutes in. 11 minutes into the match, Vancouver’s persistence paid off as 2013 leading goalscorer Niall Cousens found himself with time in the box and flicked a smart lob over Kitsap goalkeeper Matt Grosey’s head.
The half slowed down at that point as both teams tried to feel out the match. The ‘Caps back four, led by Chris Serban, suffocated Kitsap at every turn, and the teams entered the half with the 'Caps leading 1-0.
Coming out of the break, Kitsap put on the pressure for the equalizer, coming close on a couple of occasions. One attempt in the 57th minute saw a beautiful bicycle kick by Kitsap forward Miguel Gonzalez that was cleared off the line. Pumas came close again 10 minutes later as a rising rocket from defender Justin Ortinau was stymied by Vancouver goalkeeper William Diaz.
Kitsap kept pressing until the very end of the match and as the final whistle nearly blew, Ortinau found Danciu, who buried a wide-open look from in close. The final whistle did blow soon after, ending the match in a 1-1 deadlock.
Overall, it was a strong performance for the Blue and White as the ‘Caps impact players made their mark on Sunday. Cousens was especially good, as Meadley referred to him as a “force”, highlighting that he is not only a “big, strong target man, but he has good technique, and he understands his role on the team”. Meadley also noted Marlon Ramirez, the Honduran striker who was just recalled from Whitecaps FC USL PRO affiliate Charleston Battery last week. Meadley called Ramirez’s work-rate “tremendous” and called him a “threat” for the entire 60 minutes that he was on the pitch.
Next up, Whitecaps FC will have another opportunity to earn their first win of the season as they travel to Oregon to take on Cascadia rivals Portland Timbers U-23 on Thursday, May 15. The match will kickoff at 11 a.m. PT at Portland's Providence Park.
11’ – VAN – Niall Cousens
90+3’ – KIT – Septi Danciu (Justin Ortinau)
Shots: Kitsap 11 – Vancouver 5
Saves: Kitsap 0 – Vancouver 3
Fouls: Kitsap 13 – Vancouver 12
Offsides: Kitsap 2 – Vancouver 1
Corners: Kitsap 6 – Vancouver 5
45’ – VAN – Nicholas Prasad
69’ – VAN – Harpreet Lakhan
74’ – KIT – Tommy Catalano
89’ – KIT – Trevor Jensen
18.Matthew Grossey; 9.Rene DeZorzi, 3.Cory Keitz, 4.Justin Ortinau, 11.Craig Rogers (5.Trevor Jensen), 23.Brodie Steigerwald; Patrick Kelly (12.Tommy Catalano 63’), 7.Kevin Finlayson (22.Septi Danciu 82’), 10.Jesus Sanchez; 15.Miguel Gonzalez, 17.Joaquin Rivas (16. Michael Chamberlain 69’),
Substitutes not used: 6.Kristopher Olsen-Barr, 0.Patrick Wilson
Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23
13.William Diaz; 2.Colton O’Neill, 6.Jordan Farahani, 5.Nicholas Prasad, 27.Chris Serban 23.Reynold Stewart; 24.Cody Cook, 7.Harpreet Lakhan, 14.Brett Levis (11.Jordan Haynes 73’); 9.Niall Cousens, 28.Marlon Ramirez (30.Adam Jones 63’)
Substitutes not used: 21.Ali Musse, 17.Mitchell Piraux, 4.Mark Baldisimo, 16.Mason James