U-17 Boys in European weekend action

Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-17 Boys Prospects encountered wintry conditions in the Netherlands over the weekend.The team's first game against Barking Abbey (a touring English academy team) had to be called 15 minutes into the second half, as the snow had completely covered the field. By that time, all the boys had been able to get some of the jet-lag out and, even though they were tired, it was good to have been in action.On Saturday, it was on to the Blauw-Wit Tournament, where we would face some impressive opposition. The weather was still very cold and the winds were strong. Rain and wet snow fell intermittently all day.In the first game against Vitesse Arnhem (whose first team we watched play against NAC Breda in a spectacular Dutch Eredivisie game the night before), the young Whitecaps immediately took the initiative with high pressure and quick attacking play against the current number seven-ranked side in the Dutch U-17 Eredivisie. This resulted in two early chances, the first one well saved by the Vitesse goalkeeper, but the second one got the Whitecaps on the scoreboard.It was Jordan Whitehead that pressured the left fullback and won the ball, which he immediately passed to Brayden Gant. He played the ball forward in the path of Sahil Sandhu, who beat one defender and slotted the ball coolly past the goalkeeper for 1-0. The rest of the first half set the tone for the rest of the tournament, as the Whitecaps created a number of good chances, but failed to capitalize.In the second half, and with the wind at their backs, Vitesse pressured hard and scored the equalizer on a well-executed corner, as an Arnhem midfielder came from deep to head the ball home for 1-1. The second half maintained a very high pace and there were chances on both sides to break the deadlock, but both teams had to settle for the draw.In the second group game, the Whitecaps played Germany's VFB Hilden (Residency player Navid Mashinchi’s former club), who needed a result after they were beaten 1-0 by the Danish side Koge in their first game. Against the run of play, as the Whitecaps were completely dominating the game and creating chances at will with a varied attack, Hilden took the lead just before halftime. From that moment on, the young Germans did everything to interrupt the flow of the play, kicking balls way off the park, embellishing injuries, and arguing calls. Still, the young Whitecaps generated many chances, but no one was able to hit the back of the net, and Hilden held on for the 1-0 win.The third group game would determine if we would end up in the one to four bracket or the five to eight bracket. We knew we had to beat Koge in order to finish second in the group. Again, the Whitecaps took the initiative and created chances, but the story seemed to repeat itself when the Danes scored on their first chance after 15 minutes.Now needing two goals, the Whitecaps continued their torrid pace in attack and got one back when Brayden Gant scored early on a low cross from Ian Clark. The Danes had to endure wave after wave of attack for the remainder of the game, but either the goalkeeper got in the way or the woodwork (Ian Clark with three minutes remaining) stopped the Whitecaps from scoring, as the game finished in a 1-1 draw.In sunny and cold conditions, the tournament's second day saw crossover and placement action, with the Whitecaps playing the team from assistant coach Les Krivak’s hometown of Kosice in Slovakia. Maybe the Whitecaps put a bit too much pressure on themselves to win this game for Les because the performance was not as crisp and many of the one-versus-one battles were lost to a very hungry Kosice side. With one goal in each half, Kosice claimed a 2-0 win and advanced to the fifth-place game, while the Whitecaps had to look forward to a game for seventh place.It seemed that in the final tournament game that the Whitecaps released all of their frustrations from their previous missed chances by thrashing Danish club Roskilde 8-1. Goals from Sahil Sandhu (2), Riley Newport (2), Ben Hemphill (2), Brandon Ho and Jordan Whitehead gave Vancouver the result. Impressive was how the Whitecaps kept their cool against an undisciplined and physical Roskilde side.It was Vitesse Arnhem – for whom the Whitecaps drew with in their first game –that won the Blauw-Wit Tournament with a 2-1 victory over fellow Dutch side FC Groningen. This showed the young Whitecaps that they can play with some of the best teams in Holland and Europe, but that it comes down to doing all the little things right - being focused from beginning to end, winning the individual battles and capitalizing on their chances. With that experience, the Whitecaps will go into their second, one-day tournament at BVV Barendrecht on Monday. It is a tournament that has been shrunk down because of the field conditions. The six-team tournament will have short games (2 x 15 minutes) and will provide the Whitecaps with some excellent opposition to face such as NAC Breda, VVV Venlo, Shutoka (Japan), BVV Barendrecht (host) and RBC Roosendaal.

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