VANCOUVER, BC – For the first time in club history, Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s U-16 Residency boys are off to the semifinals of the 73-team Development Academy thanks to a 3-0 win over Seattle Sounders FC U-16s on Thursday evening at UBC’s Ken Woods Field.
Midfielder Alessandro Hojabrpour (Burnaby, BC) and forwards Jose Hernandez (Edmonton, AB) and Jefferson Alade (Edmonton, AB) provided the scoring for Vancouver in the all-Cascadia quarterfinal, while goalkeeper Evan Ince (North Vancouver, BC) made a number of key saves in the second half, including a 66th minute penalty, to preserve the clean sheet.
“These are the types of games you wish you could be playing week in, week out,” said Whitecaps FC U-16 assistant coach Carl Valentine. “There was a tremendous amount of pressure today, there were some nerves, and they had to overcome that. And they did in the end.”
The U-16s will now face Atlanta United in the semifinals next Friday, July 14 in Carson, California.
Hojabrpour opened the scoring in the 26th minute, finding the bottom right corner with a low drive from distance after Seattle’s Sakari Carter headed a free kick off the bar just a minute prior.
The ‘Caps then added two quick goals after the break to take complete control.
First, Hernandez banged in a low cross from Gurman Sangha at the back post, his fifth goal in four playoff matches. Then, just two minutes later, Alade pounced on a rebound and finished from point-blank range after another low blast from Hojabrpour, his fourth goal in as many playoff matches.
Ince took care of the rest, shutting the door with a number of key saves.
"We were a little tense in the first half and there was maybe a little bit of a lack of belief," Valentine said. "But a lot of pressure in this game being at home against Seattle, knowing we felt we were the better team and knowing we had everything to lose. And that's how we played the first half. The coaching staff did a good job reiterating what we needed to do and how good a team we are, and we went out and played like a good team in the second half. It was a great victory and now they get to go and play in a final four, which will be an invaluable experience for these players."
Action will now shift to the StubHub Center soccer complex in Carson, California, where the semifinals will be played on Friday, July 14 followed by the championship final on Sunday, July 16. A Canadian club has never won the Development Academy – the top youth league in North America. Stay tuned to whitecapsfc.com for more details on next week’s match.
26’ – VAN – Alessandro Hojabrpour
43’ – VAN – Jose Hernandez (Gurman Sangha)
45’ – VAN – Jefferson Alade
Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-16 Residency
42.Evan Ince; 55.Tboy Fayia, 35.Ali Zohar (44.Keenan Foley 70’), 34.Nikolas White, 52.Gabriel Escobar; 45.Alessandro Hojabrpour, 21.Michael Baldisimo (57.Chance Carter 77’), 40.Anthony Caceres (32.Keisean Brooks 60’); 51.Gurman Sangha, 48.Jefferson Alade, 53.Jose Hernandez