OXNARD, California - Well into the first week of their offseason training camp in Southern California, Vancouver Whitecaps FC claimed a 2-1 friendly win over Ventura County Fusion on Thursday afternoon.
Goals by Terry Dunfield and Nizar Khalfan gave Whitecaps FC victory over their training camp hosts. Travis Bowen scored a first-half penalty for the Fusion.
After four straight days of training in Ventura Beach, California, Teitur Thordarson's squad took their Major League Soccer preparations up another level versus the 2009 United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League (PDL) champions.
The 'Caps training camp base of Oxnard College was the venue for the match, with Thordarson giving MLS Expansion Draft selections Jonathan Leathers and Shea Salinas a run-out in his starting XI.
Whitecaps FC made a flying start to the match. Just two minutes in, Salinas played in a fine cross from the right that Canadian international Dunfield headed home for a 1-0 Vancouver lead.
Though the Blue and White made a bright start, Ventura County were able to test the Whitecaps FC backline. On 36 minutes, centre back Greg Janicki did extremely well to track back and prevent a Fusion breakaway from turning into the equalizing goal.
Four minutes later, however, the Fusion were able to draw level after Ethan Gage's tackle on a Ventura County striker resulted in a penalty to the PDL outfit. Bowen - whose older brother Tristan plays for MLS club Los Angeles Galaxy - converted the spot kick past 'Caps goalkeeper Jay Nolly for a 1-1 halftime scoreline.
After the break, Thordarson used all five of his substitutions, with Vancouver getting on the front foot soon after the restart. On 49 minutes, striker Long Tan was hauled down for a free kick just outside the Fusion box. Swiss international Davide Chiumiento took the set-piece, but the Ventura County goalkeeper was on hand to make the save.
More substitutions and changes of position were implemented by Thordarson before Whitecaps FC scored the game winner on 64 minutes. Vancouver's two strikers combined for the goal, with Tan supplying a pass to Khalfan that the Tanzanian international struck home for 2-1.
It was a match that had chances at both ends, with the Fusion having the last genuine opportunity to score on 85 minutes. Bowen got in behind the Whitecaps FC backline, but only to find Nolly in fine form, as the recent MLS signing made a great save to preserve Vancouver's result.
"Today was a tough and physical game against a very competitive opponent, which was a great exercise for us," Thordarson said after Thursday's game. "I thought Leathers and Salinas made a very good impression today, as both players have not played and trained at a high level since October. Yet, they showed some of the qualities that we were aware of, so that was positive. So far, everything on this trip has gone very well. Our training sessions have been good and our performance in today's game was very encouraging."
The 'Caps will continue their offseason training camp in Ventura Beach. This will include an intrasquad match on Sunday and another friendly versus the Fusion next Wednesday to conclude their Southern California camp.
2' - VAN - Terry Dunfield (Shea Salinas)
40' - VCF - Travis Bowen (penalty)
64' - VAN - Nizar Khalfan (Long Tan)
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Jay Nolly; Jonathan Leathers, Ethan Gage, Greg Janicki, Blake Wagner (Russell Teibert 74'); Shea Salinas (Philippe Davies 59'), Terry Dunfield (Cornelius Stewart 70'), trialist (Gershon Koffie 45'), Davide Chiumiento (Willis Forko 59'); Nizar Khalfan, Long Tan