VANCOUVER, BC - Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 (0W-2L-2D) are set to take on Kitsap Pumas (1W-0L-2D) for the second time in this young United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League (PDL) season. The Northwest Division rivals are set to clash at Percy Perry Stadium in Coquitlam, B.C. on Wednesday, May 28. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. PT.
The last time these two sides faced each other was the second match of the season, a May 11 tilt that saw Kitsap tie the game up in stoppage time after Vancouver had controlled much of the play over the course of 90 minutes. It was a tough result for Vancouver, but one that may motivate them going into the rematch.
WHITECAPS FC U-23
The ‘Caps last match was a rollercoaster from start to finish. An old-fashioned shoot-out, the match against Victoria Highlanders FC at Thunderbird Stadium in Vancouver last Friday saw the Blue and White head into halftime down 4-2. Vancouver stormed out of the gate in the second half with a quick goal by Niall Cousens at 49 minutes. Cousens, last year’s leading goalscorer for the ‘Caps, added another tally at 72 minutes to knot up the score. Unfortunately for the home side, Victoria forward Blair Sturrock slipped one past goalkeeper Nolan Wirth in the 89th minute, and the visitor’s from the Island took home the Juan de Fuca Plate, a trophy that acknowledges the best B.C.-based team in the two clubs’ two-game season series.
“First half performance wasn't acceptable by our standards.” Thompson told whitecapsfc.com. “The fight back in the second half was positive and we should definitely grow from that experience.”
However, even with the admirable pluck shown by the U-23 squad as a whole, the most encouraging performance on the field belonged to Mehdi Ballouchy. An MLS veteran on loan from the first team squad, Ballouchy played his first minutes since being sidelined with an ACL injury back on September 29 last season while still playing for San Jose Earthquakes in a match against FC Dallas. Ballouchy looked smooth and healthy in his 23 minutes of action.
Thompson noted how the playing time is not only good for Ballouchy as he rounds back into form, but having a legitimate MLS vet around is great for the younger players on his squad. “Mehdi's performance was great for his confidence going forward. When you have a player like Mehdi playing you'll get leadership, experience and skill which will help our young players.”
Whitecaps FC U-23 will also have a second MLS loan for Wednesday's match as goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi will join the squad.
Since the draw against Whitecaps FC earlier this month, Kitsap fought to a draw against the aforementioned Highlanders FC, and, this past Saturday, walked over Portland in a convincing 3-0 win. Pumas jumped out to a 2-0 lead at halftime on goals by Miguel Gonzalez and Joaquin Rivas. Concordia University alum Mike Chamberlain sealed the victory in the 76th minute.
Overall, Kitsap’s 1W-0L-2D record has them in first in the PDL’s Northwest Division’s standings, and that fact isn’t lost on Thompson, though the two squads’ last meeting means more to him than their place in the standings. “Kitsap are a strong team, they have experience and play quick in their transition. Our last meeting was a tight match-up and we'll be expecting the same again.”
The all-time series is skewed in Kitsap’s favour, with Pumas holding a 4W-2L-3D record since they entered the league in 2009. It’s interesting to note, however, that Vancouver hasn’t let Kitsap win a match since 2011, going 2W-0L-3D since the beginning of the 2012 season. It should be interesting to see if the ‘Caps can keep that streak alive on Wednesday night.
Whitecaps FC don’t get much time to rest, as they have a showdown with rival club Seattle Sounders FC U-23 on Friday, May 30 at Curtis High School in University Place, Washington. The two squads are scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. PT.