In their first away match of their United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League (PDL) season, Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency (1W-1L-1D) were held to a 2-2 draw by British Columbia rivals Victoria Highlanders FC (1W-1L-2D) on Saturday evening.
First-half goals by Michael Nanchoff and Caleb Clarke helped the Residency squad earn their first PDL point away from home at Bear Mountain Stadium on Vancouver Island. Highlanders FC got on the scoresheet through a first-half strike from Jamar Dixon and an early second-half leveller from Marco Voegli.
Saturday's draw was an excellent effort by the young 'Caps, who were without seven Residency players because of Canadian U-17 national team duty. Their absences left Vancouver playing many of the program's young and enthusiastic members for the first time this season. The visitors were also without Philippe Davies, who missed Saturday's match due to illness.
Coming into the weekend trip to Victoria, any semblance of points on the road would have been a positive outcome for the Blue and White, and the squad earned high praise from the Residency coaching staff following the draw. "I was absolutely satisfied about the way we played," Residency head coach Richard Grootscholten told whitecapsfc.com. "We gave some chances away, but it was a high-speed game and that’s the way I like to play. We are seeing absolute improvement from our group every week."
The 'Caps got off to a blistering start. On five minutes, MLS SuperDraft pick Nanchoff opened the scoring with a free kick near the edge of the Highlanders FC box. The University of Akron product placed the ball perfectly over Victoria's wall, dropping his set-piece underneath the crossbar and into the net for a 1-0 Vancouver lead.
Highlanders FC responded quickly when midfielder Dixon replied off an assist from Craig Gorman to square the match at 1-1 on 16 minutes. It was Dixon's second goal in the PDL this season and the 17th of his PDL career.
Undeterred, the Residency team went back to work when striker Clarke was sent in behind the Highlanders FC backline off a pass from Ben Fisk to convert Vancouver's second goal of the match on 40 minutes. The home side immediately debated the goal, insisting Clarke was offside when he received Fisk's pass, but to no avail. Clarke’s first goal of the PDL campaign allowed Whitecaps FC to take a 2-1 lead into halftime.
Residency assistant coach Steve Meadley stated that Clarke's goal was the prettiest he has seen from the squad in some time. "It was a long diagonal ball played out to La'Vere Corbin-Ong, who took a touch and distributed it to Ben Fisk, who then took run at their defence and found Clarke. It was just as we have been working on in practice."
After the break, Highlanders FC came out with passion, matching the 'Caps intensity from the first half. Seconds after the restart, defender Voegeli scored his first goal of the season for Victoria, as he headed home Ashley Burbeary's cross into the Vancouver six-yard box to make it 2-2.
From that point on, Whitecaps FC Residency and Highlanders FC settled down defensively, with neither side willing to give up a decisive third goal. Both teams appeared to get tired, as the fouls increased and the scoring opportunities became scarce deep into the contest.
Residency goalkeeper Callum Irving played well for the visitors, giving his team every opportunity to come away with a result. As the clock reached time added on, neither side could solve each other one final time, completing a well-earned draw for both clubs and a fine result for an understrength Residency squad. "Irving made some wonderful saves tonight," added Grootscholten. "He gave us a chance to play from the back and neither of Victoria's goals were his fault."
Whitecaps FC Residency will now head to the Fraser Valley for a re-match with Abbotsford Mariners at Bateman Park on Sunday, May 29, at 3 p.m. PT. Highlanders FC, meanwhile, start their own four-match road trip, beginning with a visit to Washington Crossfire on Saturday, June 4.
5' - VAN - Michael Nanchoff
16' - VIC - Jamar Dixon (Craig Gorman)
40' - VAN - Caleb Clarke (Ben Fisk)
46' - VIC - Marco Voegeli (Ashley Burbeary)
Shots: Victoria 8 - Vancouver 7
Saves: Victoria 5 - Vancouver 6
Fouls: Victoria 17 - Vancouver 6
Offsides: Victoria 6 - Vancouver 2
Corners: Victoria 5 - Vancouver 4
35' - VAN - Ben Fisk
55' - VIC - Ash Burbeary
82' - VAN - Michael Nanchoff
Victoria Highlanders FC
1.Trevor Stiles; 2.Maxwell Wragg, 13.Tyler Hughes, 20.Marco Voegeli; 5.Jack Pearson, 14.Andrew Gray Jr., 17.Jordie Hughes; 11.Craig Gorman, 10.Ashley Burbeary, 19.Jared Stephens (12.Michael Marousek 74'), 22.Jamar Dixon
Subs not used: 0.Elliott Mitrou, 9.Steve Scott, 18.Kevan Brown, 21.Stephen Ewashko, 23.Toshi Hayashi, 24.Chris Arnett
Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency
1.Callum Irving; 2.Declan Rodriguez, 3.La'Vere Corbin-Ong, 5.Derrick Bassi, 15.Michael Boxall; 10.Ben Fisk, 17.Michael Nanchoff (11.Spencer DeBoice 82'), 18.Ben McKendry; 9.Caleb Clarke, 16.Alexandre Morfaw, 21.Doudou Toure (24.Carlos Marquez 67')
Subs not used: 30.Sean Melvin, 12.Tim Hickson, 23.Nalson Castillo, 25.Alex Rowley