WESTFIELD, IN – And then there were eight.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-16 Residency moved one step closer to a United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) championship on Friday morning with a gutsy 4-1 win over Weston FC in their third and final match of the Round of 32.
After going down 1-0 early in the second half, the young ‘Caps scored four unanswered goals to secure their position atop Group C and a berth in the USSDA quarter-finals.
Red-hot striker Dario Zanatta, who blasted home his team-leading fourth goal of the week on a breakaway in the 52nd minute, Eric de Graaf, Hayden Simmonds-O’Grady and Riley Pang provided the scoring for the Blue and White on a scorching hot morning in Westfield, Indiana.
“At times, we struggled in the first half to play with the rhythm and tempo we played with in the previous two games,” said Whitecaps FC U-16 head coach Rich Fagan. “Weston were a good team. Out of possession, they really pressed and made it difficult for us. At half, we asked the boys to really speed up the play and move the ball quickly to break them down. Sure enough, we stuck to the plan, didn’t panic, and were rewarded for it in the end.”
The win capped off a highly successful week in Indiana for Whitecaps FC U-16 Residency, in which they posted a perfect 3W-0L-0D record and outscored their opponents by a 7-1 margin.
“It starts with a consistent back four,” Fagan said of the team’s dominant defensive display. “The boys are well organized and they didn’t really give our opponent anything. And when they did, Aidan Aylward was absolutely outstanding in goal all week. He was focused and concentrated and when we needed him the most, he came up with the big-time saves.”
Fagan also spoke glowingly of the various contributions made on the offensive end. Coming into Friday’s contest, Zanatta had scored each of Vancouver’s three goals in their first two playoff games. He also led the team with a whopping 25 goals in 27 regular season appearances.
The Victoria native did some damage again on Friday, but he had some help.
“As good as Dario as been for us all year, what we say to the boys – especially the ones who come off the bench – they’re not substitutes, they’re impact players,” Fagan said. “And in the second half of every game this week and throughout the season, they’ve made a massive difference.”
“It’s been a great week,” added Fagan. “Every single player, all 18 of them, have given their absolute all every game. I’m so pleased that they performed well and now ultimately they’re being rewarded for their effort and their performance.”
The U-16s now advance to the USSDA quarter-finals for the first time since joining the league in 2012. They will play a knockout-round game on either July 7 or 9, which they could host depending on the seeding of the remaining seven teams, with a berth in the Final Four up for grabs.
48’ – WES –
52’ – VAN – Dario Zanatta (Matthew Baldisimo)
70’ – VAN – Eric de Graaf (Andre Baires)
71’ – VAN – Hayden Simmonds-O’Grady
80’ – VAN – Riley Pang
Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-16
30.Aidan Aylward; 32.Kadin Chung (23.Francesco Saporito 44’), 2.Andre Baires, 34.Eric de Graaf, 37.Jeevin Kang (51.Manraj Bains 71’); 13.David Norman (38.Marcello Polisi 58’), 28.Thomas Gardner (40.Riley Pang 70’), 33.Matthew Baldisimo; 43.Daniel Sagno (36.Cole Morokhovich 53’), 9.Dario Zanatta, 25.Hayden Simmonds-O’Grady