This Sunday afternoon, the United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League (PDL) continues in the Lower Mainland when Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency (1W-1L-1D) travel to the Fraser Valley for a return meeting with British Columbia rivals Abbotsford Mariners (0W-1L-1D). Kickoff at Bateman Park is set for 3 p.m. PT and is Vancouver's second game of a two-match road trip.
Sunday's game is a re-match of the May 13 contest, in which the Residency squad defeated the Mariners 2-1 on Bell Pitch at Empire Field. Since then, the 'Caps earned a 2-2 draw against Victoria Highlanders FC on Vancouver Island last weekend, while Abbotsford have been idle since their defeat in East Vancouver.
Sunday’s battle will be another test for the squad, as they continue to have players absent with the Canadian U-17 national team. With Residency defenders Adam Polakiewicz and Daniel Stanese, as well as midfielders Bryce Alderson, Wesley Cain, Yassin Essa, and Matteo Pasquotti all participating in a preparation camp ahead of this year's FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico, the young 'Caps will look to continue their development and extend their two-game unbeaten streak in the PDL.
As has been the norm for the Residency team this season, four Major League Soccer players will partake in Sunday's game. Alexandre Morfaw, Philippe Davies, and Michael Nanchoff will all provide depth and experience, while defender Bilal Duckett could see his first PDL action of the season. Duckett was selected 37th overall in this year's MLS SuperDraft and started at centre back in Vancouver's debut match in the MLS Reserve League, as Whitecaps FC Reserves fell 2-1 at San Jose Earthquakes Reserves on March 22.
With goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre not on the roster, head coach Richard Grootscholten has yet to decide on a starting goalkeeper. Last weekend, Callum Irving backstopped Whitecaps FC Residency to a point in Victoria, with Sean Melvin serving as his back-up. Last week, Sylvestre was on United States U-20 national team duty in Vichy, France.
Grootscholten's side focused on two things in training this week. "We worked on high balls and crosses with our defenders when our opponent attacks our box," the Dutchman told whitecapsfc.com. "We wanted to work on our control better, as we struggled against the Highlanders last match in that area. We also worked on creating more scoring chances. When you have so much possession like we did in the last game, you want to become dangerous in the hopes of scoring more goals."
Abbotsford enter into the match in the basement of the PDL's Western Conference, Northwest Division standings, having only played two matches. The Mariners are strong at the back with tough defenders like Mohammad Aziz, Kyle Knees, Colton O’Neil, and Brent Wantke.
The Mariners are also dangerous up front with athletic forward Danfi Parker, while Daniel Lowen caused several problems during their last meeting with Vancouver. Abbotsford are in the midst of a six-match home stand and will be keen to earn some much-needed points against their local rivals.
Following Sunday's match, Whitecaps FC Residency will have a four-match PDL home stand, beginning with the Friday, June 3, clash versus Tacoma Tide at 7 p.m. PT. Two days later, the Residency squad host BC rivals Victoria Highlanders FC on Sunday, June 5, at 4 p.m. PT. Both the Tacoma and Victoria games will take place at Empire Field.