Fresh off a four-match road trip, Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 (4W-4L-2D) returned home in style with a 4-0 victory over Washington Crossfire (5W-3L-1D) at Simon Fraser University (SFU) Field #4 on Friday evening.
Striker Caleb Clarke scored his team-leading fifth goal of the season, as the young ‘Caps claimed their second consecutive result, moving to within two points of the fourth-place Crossfire in the United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League (PDL) Western Conference, Northwest Division, standings.
It was an encouraging result, considering the Crossfire came into the match having only surrendered a division-low seven goals-against this season.
“We’ve really grown over the first nine games and started to hit some good form,” Whitecaps FC U-23 head coach Craig Dalrymple told whitecapsfc.com. “This team will always score goals, so when we keep a solid foundation defensively like we did, we’ll always have a shot at winning games.”
Although the opening 45 minutes belonged to the Blue and White, it was almost a disastrous start for the home side.
A miscue between defender Shawn Parkes and goalkeeper Lucas Menz nearly ended up in the back of the ‘Caps net in just the third minute. But the young shot-stopper, who was given his third straight start, recovered well to clear the ball out of danger just in the nick of time.
After both teams managed to catch their breath, the Crossfire just about broke the deadlock in the eighth minute when striker Roland Demombynes let loose a spinning, left-footed strike from the top of the box. Fortunately for the home side, his effort hit the crossbar dead on and midfielder Rafael Sanchez’s rebound header sailed high and wide of the target.
Led by Clarke, who gave the Crossfire backline fits all night with his combination of size and speed, the U-23 ‘Caps manufactured a quick response to the visiting side’s early charge.
In the first 15 minutes alone, Clarke created three quality scoring chances, including two point-blank efforts from inside the area, but Crossfire goalkeeper Andy Holte was up to the task on both occasions.
But Vancouver's MLS roster striker made his mark in the 28th minute. After midfielder Cam Hundal’s low cross into the box was blocked, the ball ricocheted to Clarke, whose first-time strike eluded the defender and found the back of the net to give the ‘Caps a 1-0 lead.
They didn’t stop there.
Just before the break, Whitecaps FC U-23 extended their lead when the unlikeliest of candidates combined off a broken set-piece.
Centre backs James Farenhorst and Parkes, neither of whom have figured in the scoresheet all season, made it 2-0 for the ‘Caps in the 44th minute. After Parkes brought down the free kick at the far post, Farenhorst found an opening in the area and deflected the defender’s feed into the bottom right corner of the net.
Looking to make a game of it, the visiting Crossfire dictated the play in the early stages of the second half, but the ‘Caps remained organized in their own half and managed to keep their opponents at bay.
To their credit, the Crossfire kept coming and were nearly rewarded for their efforts in the 66th minute. But a free kick from defender Brayton Knapp hit the crossbar, and that miss proved costly.
Striker Coulton Jackson, who was subbed on just minutes earlier, added an insurance marker for the U-23 'Caps in the 71st minute. After running on to a brilliant flick from fellow second-half substitute Michael Marousek, Jackson entered the area and outwaited the sprawling Holte before slipping the ball into the back of the net.
After a missed Whitecaps FC penalty and flurry of fouls from both teams, Marousek added an exclamation mark to this PDL showdown in second-half stoppage time with a brilliant long-range strike to seal the 4-0 victory.
“We have special players in this group, and today, they connected and showed us the extra quality we needed in the final third,” said Dalrymple. “When they do that, they’re going to be dangerous against any opposition.”
With the win, the ‘Caps are now 2W-0L-0D at SFU this season, outscoring their opponents 8-0 in the process.
After a brief stint at home, the young ‘Caps are back on the road next week. They visit Fraser Valley Mariners FC at Bateman Park in Abbotsford, BC, on Wednesday night to kick off a three-match road spell, which includes a rematch against the Crossfire in Redmond, Washington, on Wednesday, June 27.
28' – VAN – Caleb Clarke
44’ – VAN – James Farenhorst (Shawn Parkes)
71’ – VAN – Coulton Jackson (Michael Marousek)
90+’ – VAN – Michael Marousek (Coulton Jackson)
Shots: Vancouver 14 – Washington 5
Saves: Vancouver 0 – Washington 4
Fouls: Vancouver 8 – Washington 17
Offsides: Vancouver 7 – Washington 4
Corners: Vancouver 6 – Washington 3
32’ – WAS - Callum Whittaker
62’ – WAS - Kellen Wantulok
87’ – VAN – Bobby Jhutty
Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23
30.Lucas Menz; 2.James Farenhorst, 4.Shawn Parkes, 9.Alexander Marrello, 13.Niko Saler; 5.Bobby Jhutty, 11.Reynold Stewart (15.Gagan Josan 81’), 16.Gagandeep Dosanjh (3.Kianz Froese 76’); 10.Ben Fisk (17.Coulton Jackson 61’), 18.Cam Hundal (19.Sangyoon Hwang 73’), 23.Caleb Clarke (21.Michael Marousek 56’)
Substitutes not used: 1.Callum Irving, 20.Tyrin Hutchings
25.Andy Holte; 5.Callum Whittaker, 7.Jordan Burt (14.Daniel Gray 55’), 15.Brayton Knapp (9.Jordan Zogg 84’); 6.Junior Sanchez (3.Bryce Bacic 73’), 17.Nik Besagno, 19.Alex Taylor (2.Joshua Phillips 52’), 20.Thomas Chameraud, 69.Nick James; 4.Zachary Hammond (28.Leland Matthaeus 72’), 27.Roland Demombynes (13.Kellen Wantulok 55’)
Substitutes not used: 24.Jake Feener