Vancouver Whitecaps FC U16 Residency overcame a 4-2 lead by the visiting Washington Crossfire Premier with two late goals from debuting Andy Xu, ending the match in a draw.
Head coach Craig Dalrymple was happy with the way his team battled the adversity throughout the match.
“It was character building,” said the coach. “We dealt with adversity well, went down. This group hasn’t lost for six or seven games now. We were in the situation where we were down in a game, which hasn’t happened in a while. For them to comeback and fight and comeback, that was very beneficial.”
After giving up an early goal, an unusual occurrence for the U-16 team, Aymar Sigue scored two goals for the Whitecaps.
Sigue would sit the second half before getting playing time in the U-18 match later that day.
The 'Caps made six player changes at halftime, filling the field with U-15 players.
“We came out a little bit disorganized. The new players were not fully familiar with the defensive principles that we play with,” said Dalrymple.
“That’s a part of their development and I’m not too concerned about that. I am more pleased with the response of going 4-2 down, after leading the game 2-1, then coming back and scoring a couple late goals. We probably should have had the winner in there somewhere as well.”
After several defensive errors to start the second half, the young 'Caps gave up three goals, putting themselves behind 4-2.
The coach was especially impressed with trial player Xu, who lifted the team to the draw with his two goals.
“He’s from China, speaks very broken English, for him to come in and have an influence on the game in his first game with that group, that’s impressive.”
Xu was one of six Whitecaps players that train in the U-15 program. He and David Norman both played their first game for the U-16 group.
Thomas Gardner played his second game with the squad after playing on the team’s last road trip.
U-15 players Terran Campbell and Matthew Baldisimo have both become regulars with the 'Caps U-16 team this season.
Xu has been in the Whitecaps’ system since contacting the organization about three weeks before Christmas. He has been training with the U-15 group since, before playing his first game with the club on Saturday.
The boys will have a busy schedule in front of them. Playing two games in two days next weekend in California against Cal Odyssey and San Jose Earthquakes.
“It’s a tough trip. We leave Friday and have about 10-12 hours of travel,” said Dalrymple. “When we land in San Jose, it’s a three hour bus ride to our hotel. It’s one of those nightmare type trips for travel. It’s not unfamiliar to the boys, they travelled a lot this season, they have a lot of away games. This makes 13 of our first 14 games on the road, the boys are used to it.”
Though the game was labelled a friendly, both Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Crossfire Premier U-18 teams played with the same intensity and pace that would be seen in an important regular season game, with the 'Caps winning 4-1.
Head coach Gordon Forrest was happy with the collective effort of his squad.
“We we’re working on that real work rate off the ball and possession,” he said. “It allows us the opportunity to score goals. Collectively the work and effort given from everyone from the group has been really good.”
The Whitecaps took it to the struggling Crossfire team, who sit 3W-7L-1D on the season in the United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA).
The Canadian club fielded a team that prominently featured several players from their U-16 program.
U-16 Whitecaps FC players Marco Bustos and Alex Comsia (who have both been moved up to the U-18 team), Jordan Haynes, Matthew Chow, Aymar Sigue and goalkeeper Marco Carducci all saw playing time in the victory.
“I think it’s great for our club,” said Forrest of the younger players. “For the development of our players, to be involved in that environment. They’re doing well in the U-16 environment, so it’s a progression for them to get a feel for potential differences in the pace of the game, the power of the game moving up that level. It’s something we look at with all our age groups, testing them and putting them in different environments.”
It should also be noted that Carducci worked double-duty, playing in the first half of the U-16 game, as well as backstopping the U-18 squad.
Titouan Chopin scored the first goal for Whitecaps FC.
Carlos Marquez added the second goal before Bustos put his own shot past the 'keeper.
The final goal was scored by Yassin Essa, who was coming off an incredible four-goal performance against San Juan SC in his last game.
The 'Caps Residency squads will be very busy next weekend, playing two games in two days; facing Cal Odyssey on Saturday and San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday.
The busy schedule is something Forrest feels will pay dividends for his team.
“It’s great. The more games that they can play; the more you can put them in that environment. We’re on the road, it’s a good chance to work with the players, to speak with the players both on and off the field.”
Following next weekends games, Whitecaps FC Residency teams are back in town after a week off, playing back-to-back weekend games against LA Galaxy and Chivas USA on February 16 and 17 at Simon Fraser University.