VANCOUVER, BC – And then there were four.
Whitecaps FC 2 punched their ticket to the Western Conference Final with a dramatic 3-2 win over Oklahoma City Energy FC on a wet Saturday afternoon at Thunderbird Stadium in the USL Cup Playoffs.
Daniel Haber provided the last-minute match-winner for the ‘Caps, who now advance to meet the winner of Sunday afternoon's match between Swope Park Rangers and Orange County Blues FC.
Kianz Froese and Kyle Greig also scored for WFC2 before Danni König and Timo Pitter drew the visitors level late, setting up the thrilling finish to the chippy Western Conference Semifinal match.
Goalkeeper Spencer Richey recorded the win for Whitecaps FC 2, who had three teenagers and six Canadians in their starting lineup.
The ‘Caps opened the scoring in the 27th minute when Froese’s direct free kick from the left side went untouched and bounced past OKC goalkeeper Cody Laurendi and into the net.
The goal, Froese’s second in two weeks, appeared to have energized the WFC Residency product. In the 40th minute, the midfielder emerged out of the centrepitch sideline and made a great run to the edge of the box, where he launched a shot that missed just wide of the left post.
Energy FC had their best chance of the half three minutes later. Midfielder Michael Thomas pounced on a half-cleared cross and teed off from 15 yards but Richey got low for the reaction save to keep the score at 1-0 going into intermission.
The ‘Caps came out of halftime on a mission. 18-year-old Kadin Chung eluded a number of OKC defenders on his way to the box, then set up a wide-open Greig for the easy goal. Greig, who played for OKC in 2015, tallied his 13th goal of the year, and his second in the postseason.
Oklahoma City would respond. After his initial goal was called back and ruled offside moments prior, König cut the deficit in half for Energy FC in the 60th minute. The Danish striker received a corner on the far post and struck with his right foot. Richey got his fingertips on the attempt but the ball would carom off a WFC2 defender and into the net to make the score 2-1.
Energy FC tied it up with just 10 minutes remaining. The ‘Caps cleared an OKC corner but only just outside the box, where OKC’s Timo Pitter was positioned. The German midfielder, on loan from FC Dallas, launched a beauty of a strike from long distance and into the top-left corner for the late equalizer.
With a trip to the Conference Final on the line, Haber rose to the occasion in the 89th minute. The Ontario native took possession of a loose ball inside the box, patiently gathering his balance and then taking aim with his left foot, putting one past a diving Laurendi for the dramatic game-winner.
The score was Haber’s eighth of 2016, three of which are game-winners after the 85th minute.
WFC2 now either travel to Swope Park, or host Orange County at Thunderbird Stadium. If WFC2 host the Western Conference Final, it will be on Saturday, October 15 at 12 p.m. Once confirmed, next week's playoff details will be announced on whitecapsfc2.com.
27’ – VAN – Kianz Froese
48’ – VAN – Kyle Greig (Kadin Chung)
60’ – OKC – Danni König
80’ – OKC – Timo Pitter
89’ – VAN – Daniel Haber
Shots: VAN 12 - OKC 13
Shots on Goal: VAN 4 - OKC 5
Saves: VAN 3 - OKC 1
Corners: VAN 5 - OKC 8
20’ – VAN – Will Seymore
23’ – OKC – Michael Thomas
62’ – OKC – Coady Andrews
90’ – OKC – Danni König
Whitecaps FC 2
39.Spencer Richey; 63.Kadin Chung (48.Christopher Diaz 66’), 51.Sem de Wit, 14.Cole Seiler, 46.Brett Levis; 38.Kianz Froese, 58.Will Seymore, 65.Matthew Baldisimo (57.Thomas Sanner 71’); 56.Daniel Haber (45.Giuliano Frano 90’), 47.Kyle Greig ©, 64.Thomas Gardner
Substitutes not used
24.Marco Carducci, 41.Jackson Farmer, 49.Fatawu Safiu, 61.Terran Campbell
Oklahoma City Energy FC
1.Cody Laurendi; 19.Michael Harris, 26.Coady Andrews, 4.Cyprian Hedrick (28.Wojciech Wojcik 90’), 22.Kalen Ryden; 30.Andy Craven (7.Sebastian Dalgaard 51’), 25.Michael Byskov, 8.Michael Thomas ©, 15.Timo Pitter; 27.Colin Bonner, 9.Danni König
Substitutes not used
18.C.J. Cochran, 2.Jacob VanCompernolle, 3.Kyle Hyland, 13.Linus Olsson, 23.Luis Martinez