Vancouver Whitecaps ride luck and late goal rush to beat CPL’s York United in Canadian Championship
Sometimes, you look back at a game and you wonder: “How did that finish with that scoreline?”
At Wednesday night at York Lions Stadium, fans of both teams could have been forgiven for feeling a similar way.
The favoured Vancouver Whitecaps, as expected, dominated proceedings from start to finish. The MLS side had the vast majority of possession, setting up camp in York United’s defensive half and constantly probing for openings in the hosts’ defence.
But, despite that, when the half-time whistle blew the score was 0-0, the backline in green seemed relatively untroubled, and Martin Nash’s gameplan appeared to be going… well, according to the gameplan.
Photo: Josh Kim/Waking The Red
But the Whitecaps scored four goals after the 63rd minute to wrap up an eventual 4-1 win and move on to the semi-final, where they will travel to fellow BC side Pacific FC on May 23.
The pressure had to tell eventually. The Caps had 20 (TWENTY) shots at the York goal in the first hour of the game. But, as is sometimes the case in soccer, there was a huge slice of luck involved at a key moment.
When Russell Teibert’s shot hit the bar and rebounded off the back of the unfortunately placed Elijah Adekugbe and into the net for the opening goal, the pocket of ‘Caps fans celebrated loudly in a mixture of amusement and relief, while a collective sigh of acceptance rippled through the home supporters. Oh, that’s our luck today, is it?
The first Whitecaps goal was always going to win them the game — Nash’s plan of sit back, stay tight, and either nick one on the break or force the penalty shootout lottery wasn’t exactly ill-advised but was relying on a lot of good fortune that ultimately wasn’t forthcoming.
“We did well up until they scored as far as limiting quality chances,” Nash said postgame. “They’ve got a fantastic team but I thought in the first half we defended well, the chances they had came from silly giveaways.”
His counterpart Vanni Sartini agreed. “For 60 minutes, it was very hard,” the Italian admitted.
From then on, though, the Whitecaps side cantered to victory.
14 minutes from time, the second goal arrived in more hapless circumstances as York goalkeeper Niko Giantsopolous’ adventurous headed clearance was directed straight to the Whitecaps’ breakout striker Simon Becher, who coolly lifted the ball over him and into the net from outside the box.
Substitutes Levante Johnson, the latest Syracuse Orange standout to graduate to MLS level, and Julian Gressel’s penalty wrapped up the win. Johnson insisted post-game he wasn’t nervous about coming on for his first-team debut, and Sartini lauded him after he made an immediate impact with his first goal for the club.
“Levante’s a very good player,” Sartini said. “We had him in pre-season. He’s a player who has all the tools and skills to become an important MLS player in the future. He’s fast, he’s good on 1-v-1s, he can score goals, and also he listens a lot.”
The goal of the game, though, went to the hosts’ Austin Ricci for his long-range arrow in the closing moments. As consolation goals go, it isn’t bad.
“I thought our guys gave a fantastic account of themselves,” concluded Nash. “They worked real hard, didn’t give up right until the end.”
Ultimately, Sartini was magnanimous in his post-match assessment, giving credit where credit was due to York’s resolute defensive display. “I think 4-1 was too much, to be honest… I think two would’ve been fair.”
Sometimes, though, those are the breaks. The Whitecaps deserved the win but York United will feel hard done by. Wednesday night proved that both things can be true at once.