VANCOUVER, BC – On a sunny night at UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium, Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 (1W-0L-0D) came back to defeat Kitsap Pumas (0W-2L-0D) 2-1 to open their 2013 United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League (PDL) season.
The 'Caps lineup featured two loanees from the MLS roster in goalkeeper Simon Thomas and defender Adam Clement.
Just six minutes into the match, Pumas striker Sebastiaan Jansen took a chance against Thomas. Although his original header was stopped short of the line, he quickly followed his own rebound to head in the first goal of the match to give the visitors an early 1-0 advantage.
On 14 minutes, Niall Cousens had a chance to equalize for the ‘Caps as he sped in on goal and gently guided a shot passed Pumas goalkeeper Dustyn Brim, but it was cleared off the line into safety.
In the 39th minute, Cam Hundal played a nice ball to Bobby Jhutty who hit a shot on target that looked to be a sure goal, but Brim was there to make the last ditch save.
In the dying minutes of the first half, on 45 minutes, Pumas midfielder Shane Malcome was in alone on Thomas and nearly increased the away side’s lead, but his shot sailed well over the crossbar.
Going into the second half, the ‘Caps looked to regain momentum and equalize against the Washington State side.
On 50 minutes, the ‘Caps had their first opportunity of the second half when Sasa Plavsic tried an audacious chance with a bicycle kick, but his shot narrowly missed the net.
In the 60th minute, Hellah Didibe had a chance to increase the Pumas’ lead with a nice strike from just inside the 18-yard box, but his shot was stopped by a diving Thomas.
Hundal finally equalized for the home side in the 69th minute, as he picked up the ball just inside the 18-yard box and fired it passed Brim and into the top corner of the net to make it 1-1.
Just a minutes later, on 70 minutes, the ‘Caps took the lead when Plavsic passed the ball to Spencer DeBoice, who rifled it passed Brim to make the score 2-1 in favour of the home side.
Despite some back and forth play to end the match, the Blue and White walked away with a 2-1 victory in their first match of the 2013 PDL season.
Head of high performance Stuart Neely was pleased by the result despite some nervousness.
"I think in the end, we deserved the three points," commented Neely. "It was a little nervy at times, but there's alot riding on the line for these boys. We got away from our game plan a bit tonight, but I think that was the nervousness of playing the first game at home. At the end of the day, results are important and if we didn't get a result, I think the boys would have been upset. We got three points, but also have some things to work on."
Next up, Whitecaps FC U-23 will host British Columbia rivals Victoria Highlanders FC next Friday, May 17 at UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium.