VANCOUVER, BC – On Saturday afternoon at UBC Thunderbird Stadium, Whitecaps FC 2 (WFC2) will play their first-ever home playoff match in the United Soccer League.
It’s a big milestone for the club. A win on Saturday would be even bigger.
But regardless of the result, WFC2 have already won. One of the team’s primary goals is to push on young Canadians to Major League Soccer.
And this year, they’ve done that twice.
“It’s just as gratifying as winning a big game,” said WFC2 head coach Alan Koch, who referred to Davies and Levis as “humble guys” who have embraced the club’s pathway.
“We’re here to develop players. To see guys like Alphonso and like Brett come along and get rewarded with MLS contracts and the opportunities that Robbo has given them is great. It kind of motivates and energizes the rest of the group, not just the players but the coaches too.”
Since joining the first team, Davies has appeared in eight MLS regular season matches, including back-to-back starts and a man of the match performance this past weekend vs. Seattle. He also scored a goal and an assist in Vancouver’s 2-1 CONCACAF Champions League win at Sporting Kansas City last month.
Levis, meanwhile, has yet to feature in MLS play. But he too has impressed in the CONCACAF Champions League, helping the ‘Caps clinch a quarter-final berth with a perfect 4W-0L-0D record.
Although they have MLS contracts now, Davies and Levis are still eligible to play in the USL. And with no MLS game this weekend, they’re both expected to be involved on Saturday vs. OKC Energy FC (12 p.m. PT at UBC - tickets available online and at the door).
“It’s my first playoff game with the Whitecaps,” Davies said. “I’m really excited to play.”
The immediate goal for every WFC2 player is to play in MLS – as it should be. Davies and Levis are no different, especially now that they’ve had a taste of it.
But they both still very much consider themselves a part of WFC2.
“I love this team,” Levis said. “I still consider both of them my teams. I’ll play wherever I get an opportunity to play. I’ve been with this team for two years, a lot of the same guys, you build good relationships with them. We’ve done so well, we have such good chemistry … there are no cliques or anything. We’re one big team and I think that’s helped a lot.”
“We’re a big bunch of brothers,” Davies told whitecapsfc.com. “I’m happy to play for both teams. I get called up to the first team, I’m happy. I get called down, I’m happy. I just want to keep playing and getting minutes.”
That’s what WFC2 is all about: getting young players meaningful minutes in a competitive environment. For Davies, who Whitecaps FC tracked for two years while he was playing in Edmonton, it was the bridge between the club’s Residency program and MLS.
“It’s helped me big time,” Davies said. “Where I’m trying to get, it’s a step up. Playing at WFC2, it’s similar to MLS. They’re faster, quicker, they move the ball. It’s been eye-opening for me.”
And for Levis, it was an opportunity to prove his worth at the professional level after coming up through Canadian Interuniversity Sport and the club’s old U-23 side. It also helped him learn a new position, left back, after spending most of his career as an attacking midfielder.
“It shows with Alphonso and then me, it’s a stepping stone to MLS," said Levis, who had four goals and two assists in 24 appearances with WFC2 this season. "It was a little bit harder a few years back when they didn’t have this team. You kind of got to that U-18 Residency and it was okay, do you make the jump? And the gap was quite big. This has helped a lot.”
Levis would know.
He’s been with WFC2 since day one. He’s seen how far the team has come.
Last weekend was a good example. After conceding an early goal on the road at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in the first round of the playoffs, WFC2 fought back to earn a 2-1 win.
“There was a little bit of a different vibe in that game,” he said. “In the second half of the season, we had a lot of slumps, and we let go of games late in the game, teams would go up, people would start to slouch and question themselves. But speaking to some of the players after … we weren’t concerned at all. We were going to win that game. Bottom line.”
“After that game, we kind of sat back once that whistle blew in the 93rd minute or whatever it was and said, ‘If we can go to Colorado and win, we can beat any team in this league.’ That’s our mentality. We’re going to continue working towards that.”
And even though he knows it’s not the team’s ultimate goal, Levis said winning a championship with WFC2 would “mean everything” to the players.
“This team is like family,” he said. “We’re all together on this. If we can make that push, whether it’s the way other results have gone in the past week or so, I think we’ve set ourselves up and have a really good opportunity to make it to the final and even win the whole thing.”
Whether or not that happens, WFC2 have already won.