TUCSON, AZ - With a trip to the United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League (PDL) Western Conference finals on the line, Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 saw their season come to a heartbreaking close on Friday night, falling 1-0 to FC Tuscon on a stoppage time stunner at Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Arizona.
Sebastian De Rada was the difference for the home side, getting his head on a last-second corner to get the match’s only goal and push his team through to the finals.
The first half was a standoff between the two sides; FC Tucson had the majority of the possession, but couldn’t break through the Vancouver back four with any type of consistency. For the few chances Tucson did get, young goalkeeper William Diaz stood tall between the pipes.
Vancouver got a scare in the third minute of first half added time, as Tucson defender Josh Phillips made a nasty studs-up tackle on Brett Levis as the latter tried to break out of his own half. Fortunately for the ‘Caps, Levis was eventually alright and stayed in the game.
The two sides went into the break scoreless.
The second half started much the same way as the first – a lot of play in the middle third of the field, and not too much penetration on either side thanks to some stout play by both defenses.
Tucson FC started to pour on the pressure halfway through the second stanza, but Diaz was there to thwart every chance. The 18-year-old goalkeeper first made a phenomenal save on FC Tucson’s Vance Rookwood in the 68th minute, as he stopped the oncoming forward’s shot from point blank range after Rockwood had slashed through the ‘Caps defense to the six-yard box.
Then, in the 71st minute, FC Tucson captain Ricardo Velazco made a fantastic play to flick the ball up to himself and get a dangerous chance on net from the Vancouver area, but Diaz made a diving stop to keep the match at 0-0.
The score stayed level until it looked like extra time was inevitable, but the home side kept pressing, and made a last-ditch effort to get the win in regulation.
After a blocked free kick in the Vancouver end led to a FC Tucson corner well into stoppage time, De Rada fought his way into position in front of the Whitecaps FC net and managed to get his head on a great delivery from defender Tim Harbison, sealing a trip to the finals for the home side.
Even with the devastating end to the season, Meadley can’t look back on the campaign with anything other than pride.
“We’re so proud of this group. These kids have gelled together in such a short period of time, and the fight and battle that they put in was absolutely tremendous.”
They should be proud – the 'Caps run to the Western conference semifinal marks the most successful PDL season since the club's first in the league in 2008. However, as great as the season was, the coaching staff is now looking towards the future.
“We’re going to be there for these boys today and tomorrow, do what we can to try and pick them up,” said Meadley. “Then, we’ll take what we learned, and get ready to start fresh next season.”
90+4’ – FCT – Sebastian De Rada (Tim Harbison)
15' – VAN – Reynold Stewart
45 + 3’ – VAN – Jordian Farahani
45 + 3’ – FCT – Josh Phillips
Shots: FC Tucson 5 - Vancouver 3
Saves FC Tucson 1 - Vancouver 4
Fouls: FC Tucson 8 - Vancouver 5
Offsides: FC Tucson 9 - Vancouver 3
Corners: FC Tucson 1 – Vancouver 2
1.Billy Thompson; 17.Edgar Reyna (19.Tim Harbison 67’), 16.Josh Phillips, 20.Greg Carter, 6.Austin Ledbetter, 5.Peter Kelly; 11.Connor Brandt (21.Daniel Antoniuk 84’), 12.Sebastian De Rada, 9.Ricardo Velazco, 10.Christian Volesky (15.Tommy Ramos), 24.Odaine Sinclair (23.Vance Rookwood 61’)
Unused Subs: 13.Max Ornstill, 8.Andres Acosta
Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23
18.William Diaz; 6.Joridan Farahani, 5.Nicholas Prasad (4.Mark Baldisimo), 2.Colton O’Neill, 27.Chris Serban; 24.Cody Cook (28.Marlon Ramirez 56’), 7.Harry Lakhan, 10.Marco Bustos, 23.Reynold Stewart (17.Mitch Piraux 63’); 14.Brett Levis (21.Ali Musse 73’), 9.Niall Cousens
Unused Subs: 22.Ragyn Hall, 30.Adam Jones, 11.Jordan Haynes