Continuing their phenomenal play from their eight match win streak to close out the regular season, Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 put on an all-around dominant performance against British Columbian rivals Victoria Highlanders FC on Wednesday evening, notching four first half goals en route to a 7-2 win at Royal Athletic Park.
With the victory, the ‘Caps will now move on to the United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League (PDL) Western Conference semifinals, where they will compete with Northwest Division regular season champion Kitsap Pumas, and a representative from both the Mountain and Southwest Divisions, for the right to move on to the PDL championship semifinals.
Midfielder Kianz Froese was a force all night, notching two goals and an assist while dominating physically down the centre of the pitch. Cody Cook and Niall Cousens, who led the ‘Caps in regular season scoring with 10 and seven goals, respectively, potted two markers apiece, while former Highlanders FC midfielder Brett Levis picked up a goal and an assist against his old club. Blair Sturrock and Jordie Hughes responded for Victoria.
Whitecaps FC came out and immediately imposed their will on Highlanders FC, as they put up three goals in the opening 18 minutes of the match.
Cook opened the scoring at the six-minute mark, as he took a feed from Levis, flew down the left flank, cut in at the top of the 18 and ripped a strike to the top left corner above Victoria goalkeeper Elliot Mitrou.
The ‘Caps wasted no time securing a cushion, as, only two minutes later, Froese made a powerful run into the box and found Levis, who made no mistake to put the Blue and White up 2-0.
After midfielder Reynold Stewart was taken down by Mitrou in the Victoria box at 18 minutes, Cook made made sure Highlanders FC paid for it, as he drilled home the ensuing penalty to make it 3-0 for the ‘Caps.
Cousens made his mark felt right before the half, as he got open in the Victoria box and got his head on a nice ball from Stewart, directing it by Mitrou. With that, the ‘Caps went into the break with a 4-0 advantage.
The second half started even more action-packed than the first, as the two sides combined for three goals in just nine minutes coming out the break.
Victoria striker Sturrock ended goalkeeper Nolan Wirth’s bid for a clean sheet at 51 minutes, but Froese restored Vancouver’s four goal cushion almost immediately, as he used his brute strength to bully his way into the Victoria area and put a strike past Mitrou.
Soon after, second half sub Hughes wired home a bomb of a shot that Wirth had no chance on, and reduced the Whitecaps FC lead to 5-2 at 54 minutes.
In the 70th minute, Victoria captain Tyler Hughes was issued a red card for taking down Froese just outside the Victoria 18. The 18-year old Froese stepped up and delivered a wonderful free kick that deflected off of Cousens, went through the right side of the wall, and found the low corner to put the ‘Caps up 6-2.
The ‘Caps added marker another late, as Froese added his second in the 85th minute off of a quick breakout. Some nice passes got everyone involved before Froese finished it off to cap a brilliant performance.
At that point, it was just a matter of riding out the win, and Vancouver cruised for the final five minutes, sealing an impressive 7-2 victory.
For assistant coach Steve Meadley, this match was the epitome of everything the staff has been preaching since the beginning of the year.
“What we’ve been stressing all season is that, if you get the performance, you’ll get the result. Tonight was the perfect example of that. The boys believe in what’s going on now.”
However, as good as both the performance and result were tonight, Meadley says that the boys are focused on the task that lies ahead – the Western Conference semis.
“Tonight, on the bus ride home, let them enjoy this one. Come tomorrow, they know that we’re back at training and it’s all about the next game. The next time we lose, our season’s over, and all of us want to play as long as we can."
6’ – VAN – Cody Cook (Brett Levis)
8’ – VAN – Brett Levis (Kianz Froese)
18’ – VAN – Cody Cook (penalty kick)
43’ – VAN – Niall Cousens (Reynold Stewart)
51’ – VIC – Blair Sturrock
53’ – VAN – Kianz Froese
54’ – VIC – Jordie Hughes (Blair Sturrock)
72’ – VAN – Niall Cousens
85’ – VAN – Kianz Froese
23' – VAN – Harry Lakhan
38’ – VIC – Carlo Basso
40’ – VAN – Brett Levis
45’ – VIC – Gavin Barett
45' – VIC – Tyler Hughes
79' – VIC – Alex Rowley
70' – VIC – Tyler Hughes
Shots: Victoria 11 - Vancouver 11
Saves Victoria 3 - Vancouver 4
Fouls: Victoria 12 - Vancouver 17
Offsides: Victoria 8 - Vancouver 3
Corners: Victoria 12 - Vancouver 5
Victoria Highlanders FC
29.Elliott Mitrou; 15.Andrew Ravenhill, 13.Tyler Hughes, 4.Gavin Barrett, 2.Kevan Brown (8.Adam Ravenhill 85’); 6.Alex Rowley(11.Jordan de Graaf 84’), 20.Tarnvir Bhandal (14.Wes Barrett 45’), 23.Cam Hundal; 19.Cam Stokes (19.Ian Greedy 83’), 9.Carlo Basso (17.Jordie Hughes 45’), 21.Blair Sturrock
Unused Subs: 1.Brandon Watson, 7.Emmanuel Gomez
Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23
1.Nolan Wirth; 27.Chris Serban, 26.Jackson Farmer (5.Nicolas Prasad 72’), 6.Jordian Farahani, 2.Colton O’Neill; 7.Harry Lakhan (28.Marlon Ramirez 45’), 19.Kianz Froese, 23.Reynold Stewart (11.Jordan Haynes 80’); 24.Cody Cook (21.Ali Musse 58’), 14.Brett Levis (17.Mitch Piraux 45’); 9.Niall Cousens
Unused Subs: 13.William Diaz, 4. Mark Baldisimo