VANCOUVER, BC – If the first Whitecaps FC 2 season was a roller coaster ride, this is the part you go on a slow steep ascent, bracing for a wild finish.
WFC2 (3W-7L-4D) reached the halfway point of their inaugural USL season this past weekend after an opening 14 weeks filled with twists and turns.
But before we look forward to the homestretch, here are a few midseason awards to hand out.
Clarke shakes Monarchs SLC defender off his feet and scores
Striker Caleb Clarke has emerged as the primary scoring threat for the young 'Caps.
The Richmond, BC native has racked up five goals, and before last Sunday's home loss, had scored in all three of his starts on the Thunderbird Stadium pitch.
These goals have come in different forms - some off individual efforts and others as beneficiaries from beautiful build-ups from the midfielders.
His most entertaining strike came at Real Monarchs SLC on June 3. After getting a fine feed from Spanish attacking partner Victor Blasco inside the box, Clarke made a nifty cut that shook the defender off his feet, freeing up an angle for a right-foot strike. The tally gave the first-team forward his third goal in as many matches.
The Blue and White have been tested early and often this season.
Fortunately, WFC2 boast a deep rotation at goalkeeper with Spencer Richey, and first-teamers Paolo Tornaghi and Marco Carducci. Mark Village has yet to make an appearance but can also be called upon if needed.
Richey, 23, gets the nod though. The 2015 MLS SuperDraft pick has made 33 saves, good for sixth-most in the league, despite making only six starts.
Schuler sets up Lewis with a no-look heel-flick
When the 'Caps are clicking, they are an absolute joy to watch on the pitch.
The play started when Bustos played a throughball into the box to Schuler. Seemingly with eyes on the back of his head, Schuler went with a heel-flick to a cutting Lewis, who converted on the chance. It was a perfect finish by the Jamaican midfielder, who was making his first appearance after being out with an ACL injury.
THE PLAYOFF OUTLOOK
It was only two weeks ago when WFC2 seemed to have found their rhythm, rattling off a four-match undefeated streak.
However, as with any young squad - the 'Caps startling XI would often average around 21 years old - WFC2 seem to have hit a rough patch in the past three outings.
Fortunately for head coach Alan Koch, this is a perfect time to regroup, having four of the next five matches at home.
With only four points separating the 'Caps and Timbers 2, who currently have the final playoff berth, WFC2 are in striking distance of a postseason berth. The 'Caps face T2 on Sunday, and have two more meetings with the Cascadia rivals after that.
It will be interesting if WFC2 can recapture their earlier magic in time. With six teams vying for the final postseason spot, each week will be crucial in the Western Conference playoff race.
PLAYERS TO WATCH IN THE SECOND HALF
The midfield may be the deepest position on WFC2's roster.
Sahil Sandhu started the year fast and Brett Levis has come up to the forefront as of late. Bustos, who missed the earlier part of the season, has come in and looks prime to break out. Captain Tyler Rosenlund, who leads the team with three assists, is a steady presence as well.
It's only a matter of time that they build chemistry and cohesion on the frontline. Finding the right combination of players will be key to the 'Caps chances of making the final six.
Tickets for all WFC2 home matches are available at whitecapsfc.com/wfc2tickets.
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.