BURNABY, BC – It was a coming of age for Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-16 Wednesday evening, but they fell just short on penalty kicks to Georgia United U-16 in the USSDA quarter-final in front of a fantastic crowd at Simon Fraser University.
"Firstly, congratulations to Georgia United," said Whitecaps FC U-16 head coach Adam Day. "Secondly, I would just like to thank all the staff for all of their efforts over the course of the season. It truly has been a collective effort. What else can I say other than well done to my players. They have shown fantastic consistency, determination, and quality over the course of the season. They won their division title, topped their playoff group, and played well enough to progress tonight. Unfortunately football can be cruel, but these will be important lessons in their development."
It was a thrilling elimination match that ended 2-2 after regulation and extra time, with the ‘Caps then finding the net in all but their first penalty kick attempt. However, the sole miss proved costly as Georgia United cashed in on each of their five chances to advance to the USSDA semifinal in Carson, California next week.
But the penalty kicks barely told the story for this match.
Perhaps motivated by MLS head coach Carl Robinson’s pre-match speech, the young ‘Caps jumped on the visitors in the opening minutes. Leading a pressing attack two minutes into the match, Daniel Sagno possessed the ball in the left corner and sent a beautiful cross to a wide-open Cole Morokhovich, who calmly redirected the ball into the net with a header.
The Blue and White defence was stout in the first half, leading to opportunities for the frontline to put the pressure on the opposition.
Terran Campbell got into the act in the 22nd minute as well for WFC when he blasted a shot from distance but Georgia United goalkeeper Samuel Morton came up with a flying save.
The visitors had a chance to draw the match level right before halftime. They executed a set-piece off a free kick from 20 feet to near perfection but had a player just offside by inches.
Field positioning would haunt Georgia United again after intermission when they got a goal called off due to another offside call in the 44th minute. However, Georgia United midfielder Andrew Carleton would leave no doubt in the following minute, when he slotted in a direct-angle equalizer from inside the box.
Campbell appeared to have restored order in the 54th minute when he craftily navigated his way through the defence and pulled the trigger on a left-foot strike that just missed wide left of the target.
Unfortunately for the ‘Caps, Carleton was not done for the evening. In the 57th minute, he found the net again direct off a free kick from the middle to put Georgia United ahead momentarily.
The ‘Caps would seize their moment in the 70th minute when Kadin Chung sent a cross into traffic, where substitute Michael Baldisimo was first to the ball and got his right foot to push the ball in for the equalizer.
It was back-and-forth in the dying minutes as each side pressed on with Campbell and Carleton trading chances and goalkeepers Morton and Luciano Trasolini making big save after big save. Trasolini especially stood out, first stopping the dangerous Carleton with a world-class save on a tremendous free kick destined for the top corner, then staying alert when Carleton tried to sneak a chip over his head from 40 yards out.
Eighty regulation minutes were not enough to decide this do-or-die match as the whistle blew to signal the end of the second half with the teams still knotted at 2-2.
Substitute Gloire Amanda had the first good chance in overtime when Campbell set him up with a nice feed but the ball went directly into the goalkeeper’s gloves. Fellow substitutes Nicolas Apostol and Noah Verhoeven got chances as well, but the match was destined to come down to penalty kicks.
In penalty kicks, Munir Saleh had the first crack for the ‘Caps. His attempt was well-timed by Morton who got both hands on Saleh’s left-side strike for the save.
Christopher Goslin lined up for Georgia United, and his attempt beat Trasolini to put Georgia United up after the first round.
From then on, Whitecaps FC and Georgia United traded goals, with Verhoeven, Campbell, Amanda and Thomas Gardner scoring for the ‘Caps. Unfortunately for the home side, the visitors would match them with a score of their own after each one.
Georgia United U-16 now advance to the semifinal where they will face top-seed New York Red Bulls U-16 next week.
While they had their sights on a first-ever U-16 USSDA semifinal trip, the young ‘Caps see their season come to an end with heads held high as tonight’s relentless effort was very telling of a season that showed them grow and develop.
Without a doubt, the future is bright for these young ‘Caps.
2’ – VAN - Cole Morokhovich (Daniel Sagno)
45’ – GU – Andrew Carleton
57’ – GU – Andrew Carleton
70’ – VAN – Michael Baldisimo (Kadin Chung)
VAN – Munir Saleh – Saved
GU – Christopher Goslin – Scored
VAN – Noah Verhoeven – Scored
GU – Juan Torres – Scored
VAN – Terran Campbell – Scored
GU – Qur’an Thomas – Scored
VAN – Gloire Amanda – Scored
GU – Diego Manrique – Scored
VAN – Thomas Gardner – Scored
GU – Andrew Carleton - Scored
Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-16:
42.Luciano Trasolini; 48.Terrell Smith (33.Michael Baldisimo 64’), 4.Matthew Baldisimo, 31.frazer Poulter, 32.Kadin Chung; 45.Munir Saleh, 13.David Norman (37.Nicolas Apostol 80’), 28.Thomas Gardner; 14.Terran Campbell, 36.Cole Morokhovich (49.Glorie Amanda); 27.Daniel Sagno (38.Noah Verhoeven 88’)