WESTFIELD, INDIANA – Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-18 Residency saw their season come to an end on Thursday morning with a heartbreaking 5-3 defeat to top-ranked Bethesda-Olney in a Group F showdown at the United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) playoffs.
After taking an early 2-0 lead through a Nicholas Prasad brace, Whitecaps FC U-18 Residency were reduced to 10 men in 25th minute after Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Marco Carducci was sent off for a controversial foul inside the area.
Bethesda-Olney capitalized on the ensuing penalty, before equalizing early in the second half and then taking a 3-2 lead in the 56th minute. Not to be outdone, the 10-men ‘Caps drew the game level moments later when Chris Seban finished off a great combination play with Marco Bustos.
But the Rockville, Maryland outfit answered just two minutes later, capping off an action-packed seven-minute stretch, and added a late insurance marker to secure a 5-3 victory as well as a berth in the USSDA quarter-finals.
“I’m extremely proud,” said Whitecaps FC U-18 Residency head coach Niall Thompson. “At the same time, I’m really gutted for them because they worked extremely hard. We were unfortunate to have a player sent off after going up 2-0 but even with a man down, we showed great character to fight our way back. Unfortunately, the ball just didn’t go our way in the end.”
Thursday’s encounter was the third and final match of the USSDA Round of 32 for both teams. The young ‘Caps entered the match two points back of Bethesda-Olney in the highly-competitive Group F, meaning nothing short of a win was needed to advance.
As Bethesda-Olney’s opponents learned this season, that’s no easy feat. The Atlantic Division champions entered the USSDA playoffs as the number one seed after posting a sparkling 26W-2L-0D record in regular season competition. They also boast Duke-bound striker Jeremy Ebobisse Ebo, who led the USSDA with 34 goals in 23 games this season.
Not only did Thompson’s side keep Ebobisse Ebo in check in the early stages, they came out and dictated the pace of the game. And in the fifth minute, they stunned the tournament favourites when Prasad finished off a Mitch Piraux corner at the back post.
Prasad added his second in the 22nd minute off another Piraux corner to double Vancouver’s advantage.
“We felt all the work we had done preparing for this that we had got it right,” said Whitecaps FC U-18 Residency assistant coach Steve Meadley. “Our tactics were right, our defensive shape was right, and the way we played forward and went at them … everything was ticking.”
But then Carducci was sent off and the complexion of the game changed. Ebobisse Ebo went on to score four of Bethesda-Olney’s five goals, increasing his tally to nine goals in three playoff matches this week.
The Blue and White had some late chances, including a Kianz Froese breakaway that was stopped by goalkeeper Joe Bogan, but in the end Bethesda-Olney held on for the victory.
“I think it was extremely hard for them to take because for some of them it was their last chance to play in something like this,” Thompson told whitecapsfc.com. “But I think it’s great for their development to be in these types of situations. To develop as a player you need to play in these big-time games.”
“We're so proud of the boys and the effort they’ve given us,” added Meadley. “These boys represented the club this week like the young professionals that they are. We’re absolutely gutted for them, but it was a brilliant, brilliant learning experience for them today. They’ll grow from this.”
5’ – VAN – Nicholas Prasad (Mitch Piraux)
22’ – VAN – Nicholas Prasad (Mitch Piraux)
26’ – BET – Jeremy Ebobisse Ebo (penalty kick)
53’ – BET – Jeremy Ebobisse Ebo
56' – BET – Jeremy Ebobisse Ebo
57’ – VAN – Chris Serban (Marco Bustos)
59’ – BET – Matthew Ledder
87’ – BET – Jeremy Ebobisse Ebo
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
22.Marco Carducci; 27.Chris Serban, 6.Jackson Farmer, 5.Nicholas Prasad, 11.Jordan Haynes; 17.Mitch Piraux, 10.Marco Bustos, 4.Mark Baldisimo (46.Kyle Jones 68’); 21.Ali Musse (14.Aymar Sigue 53’), 19.Kianz Froese, 41.Terran Campbell (1.Nolan Wirth 25’)