Atiba Harris FC Edmonton Commonwealth Stadium
FC Edmonton

Whitecaps FC make good start to Amway Canadian Championship semifinal

EDMONTON, AB - In the first leg of their 2012 Amway Canadian Championship semifinal, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1W-0L-0D in ACC) earned a 2-0 away victory over North American Soccer League (NASL) side FC Edmonton (0W-1L-0D in ACC) on Wednesday evening.

First-half goals from Eric Hassli and Atiba Harris gave the Major League Soccer club a two-goal aggregate advantage ahead of next Wednesday’s decisive second leg on Bell Pitch at BC Place. Though FC Edmonton created chances, Whitecaps FC remained sturdy again at the back, as they earned a seventh clean sheet of the season in the Alberta provincial capital.

“Tonight was a professional performance and another good win for us,” Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie told Vancouver’s TEAM 1410 Radio. “It’s seven clean sheets out of nine games this season and three wins in a row, with two of those on the road, which is great. Getting guys 90 minutes that hadn’t played in a while was also good, and that gives us fresh players for Saturday. Overall, it was a good night.”

With many games coming up over the next few weeks, Rennie made seven changes to his starting 4-3-3 formation, with goalkeeper Brad Knighton earning his first competitive start for the Blue and White, while youngster Greg Klazura made his competitive debut as a professional at right fullback. There was also a first start of the year for Carlyle Mitchell, who partnered fit-again Alain Rochat in the centre of the Whitecaps FC backline.

On a cool, spring evening at Commonwealth Stadium, a crowd of 2,777 saw Whitecaps FC look more refined with their possession and attack play in the first half. The visitors made their intentions known early on, with Davide Chiumiento striking the Edmonton crossbar from a looping free kick on six minutes.

Still searching for their first win of this season, The Eddies gave Vancouver a scare on their best chance before the break. On 10 minutes, a scramble in the Whitecaps FC box saw the MLS club block a couple of close-range shots before Jonathan Joseph Augustin blasted well over the target on the rebound.

Whitecaps FC made the all-important breakthrough on 18 minutes, as Hassli scored his first of the season with a first-time finish past Edmonton goalkeeper David Monsalve. The big Frenchman was well picked out in the home side’s box by Budweiser Man of the Match Omar Salgado after the youngster did well to turn Eddies captain Paul Hamilton and reach the byline on the left flank.

The goal settled Vancouver down, and it was Salgado who again played a role in getting the ‘Caps on the scoresheet for a second time. On 41 minutes, Hassli slipped a pass to Salgado in the Edmonton box before the United States youth international struck a well-measured chip over Monsalve’s head and off the far post. The rebound fell kindly for Harris in the six-yard box, who then turned and struck home his first goal of the season for a 2-0 Whitecaps FC lead at halftime.

Looking to overcome the series deficit, Edmonton pushed forward and had several efforts towards the Vancouver goal in the second half. Knighton made saves from Chilean import Yashir Pinto and Edmonton native Shaun Saiko, while former Whitecaps FC Residency player Kyle Porter was wayward with a couple of chances. Edmonton’s closest opportunity to a second-half goal came from midfielder Ilja Van Leerdam, as Knighton made a good save from the Dutchman’s low strike on 53 minutes.

Instead, it was Vancouver that looked more likely to score a third goal after Michael Nanchoff and Long Tan came on as late substitutes for the ‘Caps. Making his first appearance of the season, Nanchoff set up Chiumiento for a chance on 80 minutes after finding the Swiss playmaker with a searching pass on the left. Canadian international Monsalve did well to block away Chiumiento’s close-range shot before saving Tan’s goal-bound piledriver minutes later.

As a result, Whitecaps FC’s aggregate lead for the home leg will be two goals following this first-ever meeting with FC Edmonton. These Western Canadian foes will battle again at BC Place in a week’s time, but before that, Vancouver return to MLS matters when they host Western Conference leaders San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday afternoon. FC Edmonton, meanwhile, host Carolina RailHawks in the NASL on Sunday.

In the other Amway Canadian Championship semifinal, MLS rivals Montreal Impact and Toronto FC drew 0-0 in Wednesday’s first leg at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium (report link below).

Budweiser Man of the Match: Omar Salgado

Scoring Summary:
18' - VAN - Eric Hassli (Omar Salgado)
41' - VAN - Atiba Harris

Match Stats:
Shots: Edmonton 10 - Vancouver 9
Shots on Goal: Edmonton 4 - Vancouver 6
Saves: Edmonton 4 - Vancouver 4
Fouls: Edmonton 16 - Vancouver 14
Offsides: Edmonton 1 - Vancouver 4
Corners: Edmonton 5 - Vancouver 10

66' - EDM - Shaun Saiko
72' - VAN - Jordan Harvey
74' - EDM - Ilja Van Leerdam

Vancouver Whitecaps FC
18.Brad Knighton; 32.Greg Klazura, 19.Carlyle Mitchell, 4.Alain Rochat, 3.Jordan Harvey; 28.Gershon Koffie, 11.John Thorrington, 20.Davide Chiumiento; 9.Atiba Harris (13.Michael Nanchoff 70'), 29.Eric Hassli (23.Long Tan 78'), 17.Omar Salgado

Substitutes not used: 1.Joe Cannon, 7.Sebastien Le Toux, 15.Martin Bonjour, 26.Floyd Franks, 31.Russell Teibert

FC Edmonton
22.David Monsalve; 13.Jonathan Joseph Augustin, 18.Paul Hamilton, 5. Kevin Hatchi, 26.Fabrice Lassonde; 19.Kyle Neville Porter (14.Paul Craig 77'), 21.Dominic Oppong (20.Chris Kooy, 84'), 8.Ilja Van Leerdam; 4.Serisay Barthelemy (11.Matt Lam 21'), 29.Yashir Pinto, 6.Shaun Saiko

Substitutes not used: 23.John Smits, 16.Kenny Caceros 24.Antonio Rago, 27.Fabien Vorbe