VANCOUVER, BC – Vancouver Whitecaps U-23 (5W-3L-3D) made it five wins out of five in the month of June with a convincing 3-0 win over Cascadia rival Seattle Sounders FC U-23 (4W-4L-2D) Sunday afternoon at UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium.
Two first-half strikes from Brett Levis, coupled with a precise header from Niall Cousens secured the three points for the Blue and White.
In addition to this being the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League (PDL) side’s fifth consecutive victory, the afternoon also marked Vancouver's third straight clean sheet. The 'Caps have now outscored their opponents by a 11-0 margin in their last three matches.
Vancouver showed immense mental toughness to shake off an inspired start from the visitors.
On two minutes, Seattle’s Austin Dunker delivered a cross from the left flank that came off Nolan Wirth’s crossbar. The rebound fell to a Sounders FC player, but the 'Caps goalkeeper handled it well, ensuring his side would not start in a hole. It was his first of six saves on the afternoon.
Just past the 10-minute mark, the Sounders were denied by the crossbar once more, this time it was a bullet from Nicolaj Hansen struck from well outside the box.
In the 16th minute, the home side threatened Seattle’s goal for the first time through Brett Levis, a foreshadowing of what was to come later on in the match.
Levis opened the scoring for the home side on 27 minutes – dispossessing Michael Bazja inside Seattle’s half, before calmly tucking it into the bottom left corner after evading two Seattle defenders with some nifty dribbling.
On 39 minutes, the University of Saskatchewan star demonstrated his composure in front of a goal for the second time in the first half, as he was played through by Reynold Stewart before finessing a left-footed effort into the bottom right corner – this time, from an acute angle.
Vancouver wasn’t done there.
In the final minute of play in the first half, Cousens headed in a pin-point cross from Jordian Farhaini to score his seventh goal of the season.
Sounders FC U-23 head coach Darren Sawatzky made six changes to the visiting side the second half in an attempt to shift the momentum, but to no avail as the Blue and White stayed well-organized defensively and looked dangerous on the counter throughout the latter 45 minutes.
Whitecaps FC U-23 head coach Niall Thompson made a tactical change of his own in the 69th minute, summoning Marco Bustos to replace Levis. The substitution nearly paid off in spades, when Whitecaps U-23’s #10 had his dipping effort scrape just above the Seattle crossbar.
The manager was quite pleased with his side’s ability to overcome the opponents who had beaten them by the same scoreline on May 30 down in Washington.
“It felt really good," Thompson told whitecapsfc.com. "And the way that we did it was a great achievement: we kept the ball, we passed it and created some great chances and scored some great goals. The way that we got the result was excellent.
Whitecaps FC U-23’s were also bolstered from a composed 90-minute performance from first-team midfielder Bryce Alderson.
“Bryce played excellent," Thompson said. "He kept us in possession very well, he played in pockets and turned, and put a lot of pressure on them when we were in transition. I thought he had an exceptional game and I’m very happy for him.”
The win creates some separation in the standings between the two Cascadia sides, as it propels the ‘Caps to 18 points from 11 games played, good for second place in the PDL’s Northwest Division. Seattle, meanwhile, sits on 14 points from 10 games played.
With only three matches remaining in the regular season, Vancouver will be looking to maintain their current standing to secure a berth in the post-season.
It's going to be a busy week ahead for the U-23s, who host Washington Crossfire on Canada Day (3 p.m. kickoff at Minoru Oval Park) and Lane United on Friday, July 4 (kickoff at 7 p.m. PT at UBC's Thunderbird Stadium).
27’ – VAN – Brett Levis
39’ – VAN – Brett Levis (Reynold Stewart)
45’ – VAN – Niall Cousens (Jordian Farahani)
Shots: Vancouver 18 – Seattle 13
Saves: Vancouver 6 – Seattle 3
Fouls: Vancouver 13 – Seattle 14
Offsides: Vancouver 2 – Seattle 3
Corners: Vancouver 4 – Seattle 6
Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23
1.Nolan Wirth; 6.Jordian Farahani, 30.Adam Jones, 2.Colton O’Neill, 7. Harry Lakhan; 23. Reynold Stewart (11.Jordan Haynes 66'); 25.Bryce Alderson; 28.Marlon Ramirez (18.Sean Einarsson 78'), 14.Brett Levis (10.Marco Bustos 69'), , 24.Cody Cook (19.Kianz Froese 74'); 9.Nick Cousens
Substitutes not used
13.William Diaz, 26.Jackson Farmer
Seattle Sounders FC U-23
31.Jacob Feener; 20.Austin Dunker, 13.Chase Hanson, 5.Batin Larson, 15.Mark Lee (12.Brandon Brockway 77'); 6.Michael Bajza (26.Troy Peterson 45'), 31.Jordan Schweitzer (8.Luis De La Vega 45'), 17.Zev Taublieb; 7.Jamael Cox (10.Francisco Lopez 45'), 9.Nicolaj Hansen (4.John Mau 77'), 25.Joey Gjertsen (28.Derek Johnson 45')
Substitutes not used