VANCOUVER, BC – Nobody said it was going to be easy.
A young Vancouver Whitecaps FC side battled back to earn a 1-1 draw with FC Edmonton on Wednesday night in the first leg of the 2015 Amway Canadian Championship semifinal at BC Place.
The visiting Eddies scored an all-important away goal in the fourth minute, but an 87th-minute Gershon Koffie equalizer gave the ‘Caps some life heading into next week’s second leg in Edmonton.
Koffie, who wore the captain’s armband, was one of the more experienced players in Vancouver’s starting lineup for Wednesday’s match. As expected, head coach Carl Robinson made a number of changes after a weekend win over Philadelphia Union.
In fact, rookie defender Tim Parker, who was named Budweiser Man of the Match, was the only player who started both games. Parker’s centre back partner Christian Dean was one of three players making their first starts of 2015. The others were Canadian midfielder Kianz Froese and goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi, who made his long-awaited Whitecaps FC first-team debut.
And Tornaghi was tested early.
After missing an earlier chance, Eddies striker Tomi Ameobi put the North American Soccer League outfit ahead in the fourth minute. The English striker combined with Ritchie Jones to force a turnover deep in Whitecaps FC territory before calmly slotting it passed a sprawling Tornaghi from close range.
It was a dream start for the visiting Eddies – and a disastrous one for the home side.
It took a little while for the ‘Caps to settle in, but they began to take over around the 20-minute mark. Vancouver had their first chance in the 24th minute, when 18-year-old Deybi Flores played a nice one-two with Darren Mattocks before blasting a strike just wide.
They came close again just a few minutes later, when a lively Froese headed a Nicolas Mezquida free kick just over the goal. Robinson’s side finished the half strong, but entered the break down by one.
Whitecaps FC kept coming early in the second half.
In the 50th minute, Eddies goalkeeper Matt VanOekel came up with a big save on a heavy Erik Hurtado strike from the penalty spot. Shortly later, he turned away a decent Mattocks attempt from a similar area. And then in the 66th minute, Mattocks released Hurtado into the box with a header from midfield but the 24-year-old missed wide.
Finally, the ‘Caps broke through in the 87th minute, when a deflected Harvey cross fell to Koffie in the centre of the box. The Ghanaian alertly cut back to his left foot before poking it in, bringing the score level ahead of next week’s second leg in Edmonton.
The away goal gives FC Edmonton a slight advantage, but everything is still to play for when the two teams meet again next Wednesday, May 20 at Clarke Field (7 p.m. PT – Sportsnet ONE). The team that scores more combined goals between the two games will advance to face Montreal Impact in the two-leg final (with away goals serving as the tiebreaker).
Before next week’s second leg, Whitecaps FC return to league play this Saturday in a much-anticipated Cascadia derby vs. Seattle Sounders FC (4 p.m. PT – TSN1). WFC2 are also in action on Sunday at UBC Thunderbird Stadium.
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Man of the Match: Tim Parker
Referee: Drew Fischer
4’ – EDM – Tomi Ameobi
87’ – VAN – Gershon Koffie
Shots: Vancouver 10 – Edmonton 5
Shots on Goal: Vancouver 3 – Edmonton 2
Saves: Vancouver 1 – Edmonton 2
Fouls: Vancouver 12 – Edmonton 9
Offsides: Vancouver 3 – Edmonton 1
Corners: Vancouver 2 – Edmonton 5
26’ – EDM – Johann Smith
51’ – VAN – Deybi Flores
59’ – VAN – Gershon Koffie
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
70.Paolo Tornaghi; 27.Ethen Sampson, 26.Tim Parker, 22.Christian Dean, 3.Sam Adekugbe (2.Jordan Harvey 17’); 20.Deybi Flores (23.Kekuta Manneh 74’), 28.Gershon Koffie, 38.Kianz Froese; 9.Nicolás Mezquida (88.Robert Earnshaw 61’); 19.Erik Hurtado, 11.Darren Mattocks
Substitutes not used
24.Marco Carducci, 30.Ben McKendry, 31.Russell Teibert, 34.Caleb Clarke
1. Matt VanOekel; 3.Eddie Edward, 15.Mallan Roberts, 12.Kareem Moses, 24.Johann Smith; 7.Cristian Raudales, 8.Ritchie Jones; 14.Sainey Nyassi (22.Michael Nonni 88’), 16.Daryl Fordyce (10.Tomas Granitto 80’), 17.Lance Laing; 18.Tomi Ameobi
Substitutes not used
23.John Smits, 2.Allan Zebie, 9.Sadi Jalali, 19.Hanson Boakai, 20.Chad Burt