League1 BC: ’Caps jump to first place in thriller over Rovers

BURNABY, BC – Amir Ghasemi’s 90th minute header led Whitecaps MLS Academy to a thrilling 2-1 victory against cross-town rivals TSS Rovers.

As time wound down, Whitecaps FC’s Aidan Fong broke loose at the edge of the Rovers box and guided in a perfect cross for the unmarked Ghasemi to nod past Rovers goalkeeper Justyn Sandhu.

With this massive result, the young ’Caps record improved to 4W-1L-3D. With 15 points, they are now in first place while the Rovers are tied for second with 12 points alongside Altitude FC and Unity FC.

Before Ghasemi’s shining moment – the more the Rovers pressed, the more ’Caps keeper De Souza’s brilliance shone underneath the lights at Swangard Stadium.

In the first half, De Souza drew gasps from the home crowd when he bravely punched out a Matteo Polisi 20-yard strike.

Then, off a deep cross, he laterally sprung to face TSS’s Massud Habibullah – last year’s league Golden Boot winner – who cracked a seven-yard volley that surely looked to be headed for glory. Enter De Souza, who made a split-second reaction for a sprawling stop.

At the other end, Whitecaps FC forward David Ajagbe put his fleet feet on full display with a masterful performance that gave defenders fits.

In the 25th minute, Ajagbe stole the ball from TSS goalkeeper Justyn Sandhu in the box and was taken down to earn a penalty kick. Captain Matteo Samori stepped up and sent a low strike inside the post for a 1-0 lead.

Ajagbe came calling again as halftime neared. In full stride, he stutter-stepped around two defenders to unleash a corker that an outstretched Sandhu barely tipped out of play.

After halftime, Rovers striker Habibullah regrouped. He collected a looping cross and spun towards goal to crack a 15-yard attempt that De Souza pawed away.

After Ajagbe was subbed off for Riley Ferraro, the 17-year-old forward brought just as much energy to the pitch. He won a loose ball and broke through to sprint down the right wing. Ferraro then made a cut-back, but his shot was expertly blocked by Rovers captain Danylo Smychenko.

With a quarter of an hour left, TSS Rovers finally lit up their side of the scoreboard. Gurman Sangha converted off a Devin O’Hea header to tie the match at 1-1.

The Rovers came on strong in the dying minutes. Habibullah had a third chance as he pounced on a high cross – thankfully De Souza came forward to challenge.

That set the stage for Ghasemi's late heroics.

After this exciting victory, the Whitecaps FC MLS Academy head out to Surrey to meet Unity FC at Cloverdale Athletic Park on Wednesday, June 26 at 8:15 p.m. PT.


Referee: Iwan Jecanski

Scoring Summary
26’ – VAN – Matteo Samori (penalty kick)
74’ – TSS – Gurman Sangha (Devin O’Hea)

Cautions20’ – VAN – Joshue Ndakala
90’+2 – TSS – Tyler Dhillon
90’+4 – VAN – Mario Lefevre

Whitecaps FC MLS Academy
99.Matheus De Souza; 87.Sahai Williams, 77.Joshue Ndakala (94.Edwin Espinal HT), 72.Nikos Clarke-Tocszak; 84.Amoni Thomas (74.Aidan Fong 58’), 65.Mario Lefevre, 68.Cristiano Da Silva (95.Markus Rukavina 58’), 88.Angelo Zhu; 79.Matteo Samori © (23.Amir Ghasemi 62’), 98.David Ajagbe (34.Riley Ferraro 62’), 85.Sydney Wathuta (89.Elijah Bean 75’)

Substitute not used
80.Alex Milosevic