MERSTHAM, ENGLAND – The Vancouver Whitecaps FC Development Squad wrapped-up their trip to England with a 1-0 win over local side Merstham FC on a rainy evening at the Specsavers Stadium on Tuesday.
- WATCH REPLAY: Merstham FC vs. Whitecaps FC Development Squad
Head coach Nick Dasovic started eight teenagers, including three 2002-born players.
The home side came out firing in the first 10 minutes, but goalkeeper Evan Ince came up big on several occasions to keep them out.
Once the young ‘Caps settled into the match, they began to showcase some terrific spells of possession and a strong tactical discipline. Striker Theo Bair was especially dangerous in the final third, creating the best chance of the match with a left-footed cross into the box just before halftime that was narrowly missed for the opening goal.
Come the second half, with the rain settling, the ‘Caps found their rhythm and circulated the ball well in possession.
On 67 minutes, 15-year-old Kamron Habibullah – on as a second half substitute – got into a clever 20-pass sequence, ending with a threaded ball from 16-year-old Emiliano Brienza to 17-year-old Brandon Cambridge, who then crossed to the back post for Habibullah to tap in for the opening goal.
"We have an identity that comes down from the first team."— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) April 3, 2019
Check out this passing from our #VWFC Development Squad, finished off by 15-year-old Kam Habibullah 😍
Full match report: https://t.co/7fzx6BgD0R pic.twitter.com/LWgLhTjP0s
With 10 minutes remaining, Brienza nearly made it 2-0, if not for a huge save from the Merstham goalkeeper on the goal line. Three minutes later, Bair hit the crossbar.
With five minutes to play, Merstham were on the break but Thomas Hasal – also in as a second half substitute – came off his line aggressively to snuff out the chance.
The final whistle confirmed a successful outing for Dasovic and his team.
"Again, this is competition that our players aren't used to. This was a great opportunity to play against men who are bigger, stronger, more physical. We have an identity that comes down from the first team. We only got together as a group just before coming to England. I felt the boys have been doing well all trip to compete and push through difficult moments. For me as a coach, I'm very pleased with how things went. This tour to England has been a perfect test for what we needed to continue pushing the group in their development, and hopefully move more of our young players onto the first team."
Live interview with Head Coach of Vancouver Whitecaps U23s Squad Nick Dasovic @vancouverwhitecapsfc https://t.co/VEYCARspBV— Mick Sullivan (@micksullivan33) April 2, 2019
The group now returns to Vancouver. The younger players will jump back into academy action, while the Development Squad play their next match on Wednesday, May 1 against local USL League Two side Vancouver TSS Rovers at the NSDC.
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