By Simon Fudge/whitecapsfc.com
Vancouver Whitecaps FC continued their buildup to the 2010 USSF D-2 Pro League season by holding an inter-squad match that involved members of the men's team and the club's Residency program on Saturday afternoon.
In front of several interested onlookers, both sets of players enjoyed another competitive run-out in windy and overcast conditions at the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex. The result went the way of head coach Teitur Thordarson's 'Team Red', as they edged assistant coach Colin Miller's 'Team Blue' 2-1 at Burnaby Lake West Field #5. Randy Edwini-Bonsu gave 'Team Red' a one-goal halftime lead before centre back Luca Bellisomo scored a spectacular equalizer late on in the contest. 'Team Red' secured the result in the dying stages through a fine finish from winger Nizar Khalfan.
Saturday's match was a productive exercise for the players, with the more experienced 'Team Red' earning a full 90 minutes of game action from Thordarson, while the younger 'Team Blue' made three changes after the break.
The first notable piece of action came on 12 minutes when Bellisomo forced 'Team Red' goalkeeper Jay Nolly into a save with his diving header following a Philippe Davies' free kick. The play did not stand, however, as Bellisomo was flagged for offside.
Two minutes later, 'Team Red' opened the scoring through the speedy Edwini-Bonsu. The Canadian international eluded the attentions of 'Team Blue' centre back Wesley Charles before reaching the byline and striking a tight-angle finish past goalkeeper Dan Pelc.
'Team Blue' made an immediate response on 18 minutes, but despite being unmarked at the far post, Residency youngster Bobby Jhutty struck Justin Moose's fine cross from the right high and wide of the target from close range. Six minutes later, Cornelius Stewart was unable to force Nolly into a save after drilling a shot over the crossbar following an exquisite 'Team Blue' passing sequence down the right flank.
Those misses nearly cost 'Team Blue', as Edwini-Bonsu came ever so close to scoring his second goal of the match on 26 minutes. The Edmonton, Alberta, native took a pass from Mexican midfielder Ricardo Sanchez before lobbing the ball over the head of the onrushing Pelc and towards an empty goal. Bellisomo, however, was on hand to clear the danger away from the goal line.
Chances were traded at both ends shortly before the break, with Edwini-Bonsu coming close to scoring again on 31 minutes, while Jhutty's acrobatic volley to another fine cross from Moose on 43 minutes flew high and wide of the target.
It meant that 'Team Red' had a one-goal lead at halftime.
Thordarson's team started brightly after the break, with Blake Wagner missing the net on 46 minutes, while Jamaican youngster Dever Orgill hit a bicycle kick into the 'Team Blue' side-netting.
On 52 minutes, 'Team Blue' were handed a chance to level matters after striker Alex Semenets was brought down in the 'Team Red' box by Nolly for a penalty. The young attacker stepped up to take the spot kick, but just as he famously did in last season's playoff showdown at Carolina RailHawks, Nolly dove to his right and made a fine save to maintain the 1-0 scoreline.
More of the men's team's new qualities were on display come the 65th minute, as Sanchez showed his abilities as a set-piece specialist when he struck the 'Team Blue' crossbar with a curling right-footed free kick. Ten minutes later, both Orgill and Edwini-Bonsu were guilty of squandering two fine goalscoring chances in the 'Team Blue' box.
Those missed opportunities allowed Bellisomo to hit the equalizer on 85 minutes, and in turn, create the highlight of the match. After venturing forward from his centre-back position, the former Simon Fraser University standout unleashed a 35-yard pile-driver into the top corner of Nolly's goal to make it 1-1. "I saw myself in a little bit of space and thought I would have a go," Bellisomo told whitecapsfc.com after the match. "It was a training game, so I decided to take the chance and have a strike. Luckily, I did alright."
Bellisomo's goal would have been worthy of capping what was a solid run-out for the men's team and Residency players on Saturday. However, in the 90th minute, a 'Team Red' break saw Khalfan take a pass from Sanchez on the right flank. The Tanzanian international then made a darting run into the 'Team Blue' box before hitting a low strike past second-half goalkeeper Simon Thomas for the match winner.
90 FULL MINUTES
Assistant coach Miller was pleased with the effort of the players at Burnaby Lake. "I thought today's inter-squad game was terrific," Miller said. "From start to finish, the attitude of the players was very positive. We were initially going to play some form of opposition today, but Teitur and I agreed that there were a few players that haven't had a full 90 minutes of game action this pre-season. Today was a wonderful opportunity on a nice surface to get 90 minutes for as many of our first-team players as we could. It certainly served a purpose and it was very positive."
The Whitecaps men will train through this coming week before heading to Vancouver Island for next Saturday's pre-season friendly with University of Victoria Vikes. Kickoff at UVic's Centennial Stadium is set for 2 p.m. PT.
14' - Randy Edwini-Bonsu
85' - Luca Bellisomo
90' - Nizar Khalfan (Ricardo Sanchez)
52' - Martin Nash
Team Red (coach: Teitur Thordarson)
Jay Nolly; Wes Knight, Greg Janicki, Nelson Akwari, Zourab Tsiskaridze; Nizar Khalfan, Martin Nash, Ricardo Sanchez, Blake Wagner; Randy Edwini-Bonsu, Dever Orgill
Team Blue (coach: Colin Miller)
Dan Pelc (Simon Thomas 45'); Chris Williams, Wesley Charles (La'Vere Corbin-Ong 75'), Luca Bellisomo, Jack Cubbon; Justin Moose, Ethan Gage, Philippe Davies, Bobby Jhutty (Joseph-Claude Gyau 60'); Cornelius Stewart, Alex Semenets