VANCOUVER, BC – Whitecaps FC 2 and Oklahoma City Energy FC played to a thrilling 2-2 draw on Sunday afternoon at UBC Thunderbird Stadium.
Here are three things that stood out to me.
THE KIDS CAN PLAY
This was one of the youngest lineups WFC2 head coach Alan Koch has fielded so far this season.
His starting XI was made up of four teenagers for an average age of 20.9. Also of note, Marco Carducci and Ben McKendry were the only two first-teamers in the lineup (more on them later) and nine of 11 starters were Canadian.
The young ‘Caps were going up against an older, stronger, and more experienced OKC side and they didn’t look out of place. In fact, they controlled large spells and put in one of their strongest performances of the season.
“Playing with a young team in a professional game isn’t easy, but we believe in our young players,” WFC2 head coach Alan Koch told reporters after the match. “We think they’re good players and it’s a great learning experience for our guys just like it is for all the other MLS second teams. The other teams, take OKC as an example, are older and have players who have played professionally for five, six, seven years. It makes a difference, but we’re going to come out and compete in every game. The young guys are getting better every single week.”
That sure looks to be the case.
I was particularly impressed with WFC2’s build-up play in midfield. Whitecaps FC Residency products Sahil Sandhu and Chris Serban, the WFC2 goalscorer, combined well on the right flank while McKendry and Tyler Rosenlund seemed to find a lot of space in the middle of the park.
WFC2 played some bright stuff (see example below) and created more than enough chances to put the game away – something that will likely be a focus moving forward.
This season, we’ve primarily seen McKendry in a central midfield role (either as a holding midfielder or a box-to-box player) but on Sunday afternoon he played further up the pitch in an attacking position. And he made quite the impact.
Though he didn’t figure on the scoring, the Vancouver native was involved in both of WFC2’s goals. On the first one, he sent in a dangerous cross that bounced off an OKC defender for an own goal.
And on the second one, he released Sandhu into the box before Sandhu and Serban combined to find the back of the net.
McKendry, the only WFC2 player to have started every match so far this season, also came ever so close to scoring himself on a few different occasions. In the 34th minute, he headed a Rosenlund cross inches wide. And then early in the second half, the ‘Caps Residency graduate made a good run through midfield before blasting a strike that forced the OKC goalkeeper into a diving save (see below).
Something tells me this isn’t the last we’ll see of McKendry in this position.
“Ben’s versatile,” Koch said. “He can play as a 6, he can play as an 8, and he can play as a 10. We’ve played him in all three of those positions and he’s played in all three of those positions before in his career. We’re just trying to figure out where he’s best. We know he deserves to be out there and he’s done a good job for us. I think the sooner we find him a set position, he can learn that position and grow with it, which will allow him to get better and help us get better as a team.”
CARDUCCI COMES UP BIG
He may have conceded two goals, but Carducci came up with a number of big saves on Sunday. The 18-year-old was credited with five on the night and from my recollection, all five of them came from decent scoring chances (including the double save you see below).
Unfortunately for Carducci and the ‘Caps, they were undone by a late equalizer that came off a long, front flip throw-in.
At least those who attended this one got their money’s worth.
Come and see the next generation of Whitecaps FC stars as USL arrives in Vancouver. WFC2 matches are a unique and affordable experience for fans, families, students, and supporters. Season Tickets start as low as $118, with prorated prices available. Flex packs are also available to fit your schedule – get seven tickets to use any way you want, to any matches you want. For more information on all WFC2 ticket options, call 604-484-7862 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.