It was the first meeting between the two sides but it’s going to be one that Vancouver Whitecaps will want to forget quickly, as they crashed to a 2-0 defeat in their Canadian Championship semi-final first leg at Ottawa Fury on Wednesday evening.
And it was two former Whitecaps that came back to haunt them, albeit ones that barely enjoyed a cup of team here. Jonny Steele and Paulo Jr did the damage in the first half, as Vancouver were left looking lacking in creativity and impotent in the final third for most of the game, leaving Ottawa to come away with the historic win.
As we expected it was all change for the ‘Caps from their usual MLS line-up with only Tim Parker a first team regular this season and with Ben McKendry and Cole Seiler getting their first starts in the first team. The ‘Caps went for six Canadian starters in the hope that they’d be up for it in their own domestic cup competition.
Any thoughts that the Whitecaps were going to have a fairly easy night of it were quickly dismissed when the Fury shot into a third minute lead.
As Ottawa pressed, the ball came to a wide open Steele, after some good work by Carl Haworth, and the former Whitecap hit a stunning first time diagonal strike from the corner of the box into the postage stamp corner, giving Paolo Tornaghi no chance in the Vancouver goal.
Nicolas Mezquida had Vancouver’s first shot in anger in the 8th minute, hitting a Marco Bustos layoff straight at Romuald Peiser from just outside the box, but that all the ‘Caps could muster in terms of troubling the Fury goal.
It was Ottawa that were creating the best goalscoring chances and Haworth turned and fired a low shot just past the left post in the 25th minute, before Tornaghi came up big to keep out a Rafael Alves header off a Steele cross nine minutes before half time.
Ottawa got the second goal their play deserved in the 41st minute and it was another former Whitecap that did the damage.
Steele tore up the left wing again and whipped in a fantastic cross which was met by forcefully by Haworth. His header was superbly kept out by Tornaghi but the rebound broke to Paulo Jr who fired home the Fury’s second and sent the home fans into rapture.
And that was it for the half and with the NASL side going in with a two goal advantage, there was a growing mountain to climb for the ‘Caps.
Mezquida came close to pulling one back for the ‘Caps in the 53rd minute but his header from a Sam Adekugbe cross was tipped over the bar by Peiser.
The ‘Caps brought on MLS starters Kekuta Manneh and Octavio Rivero to try and get things going, but they barely got a sniff as Ottawa killed the game off and Vancouver’s attack was looking impotent beyond belief in the final third.
Substitute Kyle Porter had a chance to grab a killer third in the last minute, and make it a rare ex Whitecap trifecta of Fury goals, but his header went wide.
With the game deep, deep in stoppage time, Peiser came up with a stop that could be the deciding moment in tie, keeping out Rivero with a leg save.
How big that save be? Will the Whitecaps be punished for not getting an away goal? We’ll find that all out in one week’s.
For now, a hat tip to Ottawa. They outfought, outthought and outbattled Vancouver and deserved to be heading into the second leg with that two goal lead. The giantkilling awaits.
FINAL SCORE: Ottawa Fury 2 – 0 Vancouver Whitecaps
OTTAWA: Romuald Peiser, Lance Rozeboom, Rafael Alves, Fernando (Timbo) Sanfelice, Onua Obasi; James Bailey (Mauro Eustaquio 60), Mozzi Gyorio (Bryan Olivera 30), Jonny Steele; Carl Haworth, Dennis Chin (Kyle Porter 78), Paulo Jr [Subs Not Used: Marcel DeBellis, Andrew MacRae, Idan Vered]
VANCOUVER Paolo Tornaghi; Fraser Aird, Tim Parker, Cole Seiler, Sam Adekugbe; Russell Teibert, Ben McKendry (Alphonso Davies 72), Kianz Froese, Marco Bustos (Kekuta Manneh 58), Nicolas Mezquida (Octavio Rivero 58); Erik Hurtado [Subs Not Used: Marco Carducci, Jordan Smith, Jordan Harvey, Cristian Techera]
Was he surprised at how strong Ottawa were?:
“No, not at all. They’re very organised and have some experienced players. We played a young group today and it was a challenge for them. I think one or two of them got a little bit surprised in the first half with the tempo of the game. It was a super goal by Jonny Steele. A super strike and you give him credit for that. Second half we were a lot better but obviously we give ourselves a little hill to climb.”
How realistic is it to think they’ll overturn the two goal deficit?:
“It’s happened before. Teams do do it but it’s not ideal. All credit to Ottawa because they deserved to win today because I think they won their individual battles. They played the way they like to play. They got their noses in front early and then the game become a little bit easier for them because they were able to sit back a little bit in the second half and soak up pressure. We tried to change it and systems and try and bring on a few key personnel, but credit to them, they held firm.”
Is he more disappointed with the result of that guys didn’t take their chances he gave them?:
“Football is a great game, it really is. When you’re in the team, obviously everything’s rosy, when you’re not in the team, it’s easy to think that you should be in the team. I’ve always given my young players chances and I give them chances today. Some took it and some didn’t. There’ll be other chances for them, but next week it’s not about chances, it’s about trying to claw back the two goal deficit that we give them and they thoroughly deserved it.”
Changes to a stronger team for second leg?:
“Will it be the same team that plays? No it won’t. Obviously it wasn’t ideal the travel coming here and things like that, but no excuse. We were beaten by the better team today, so there will be changes in the team, yeah.”
On balancing development with winning:
“The club model is we want to develop young players, without losing the fact that the game is about winning games of football. Today we didn’t win a game. We got some experience for some of them, some of them made their debut, we even had a 15-year-old [Alphonso Davies] on the field at the end of the game, who looked very sharp and very bright. It’s finding the balance of doing that, development, giving chances, but winning. We didn’t get that right today. Obviously great for the guys to make their debut but it’s back to the drawing board for next week to make sure we can try and get the first goal in the game.”
MARTYN PERT (on TSN 1410 Radio)
What went wrong in those opening minutes?:
“Well it was a terrific strike from the boy. That can happen in any game. We didn’t compete with them. All the things that you’re thinking about that they will do, they will battle, they’ll fight for every second ball and be competitive, they did that and they got the advantage on that. In terms of their actual domination in the first half, we didn’t actually create anything or put any real pressure on them, and they were able to build confidence. It was a good cross from the left back, we didn’t defend at the back post and they get their second goal.”
Vancouver wanted young players to go out and play freely, so why so rigid in the first half?:
“We’re disappointed. They didn’t play to their full potential that we believe that they’ve got. They didn’t express themselves, they didn’t move the ball quick enough and therefore allowed them to get close and tight to us. We had too many touches, particularly the line behind their midfield, therefore we didn’t really have that fluidity or any sort of possession really. We didn’t create anything or move the ball quick enough or have any sort of creativity.”
What was said at half time?:
“Be more competitive. Win the battles, put the ball down the side of them and use Erik’s [Hurtado] pace. He did that. He held the ball up and we were able to get some territory in their half of the pitch. They defended deep and they did particularly well defensively and kept the ball out, so you have to give credit to them. We put some pressure on them and had some possession in the final third and were able to put some crosses in the box. Octavio’s had a chance and the keeper’s save, Nico’s had a header, so we were able to more pressure on and create something.”
Did Robbo and Pert dish out the hairdryer treatment at half time?:
“No, we didn’t go that route. We asked more of them and they responded.”
Can we expect roster and line-up changes for the second leg?
“I think so. I think there will be change in the roster and it makes for a very exciting game next week. It’s all to play for. They’ve got something to really hang on to. They’ll be coming to fight and scrap and compete and I’m sure they’ll be looking forward to the game. Come to BC Place, what sort of crowd will be there, we’ll see. There’s a lot to play for. It makes for a really exciting game. I’m looking forward to it next week.”
On the performance of Cole Seiler:
“I thought for his first game in a MLS shirt, let’s say, he was steady and composed and built himself into the game, making good decisions. I thought he looked a player that could play at the MLS level at some point.”
On how flat the young Canadian players looked to start the game:
“It surprised me because I believe in their ability. But as I said to them at the end of the game, it’s different. Winning football is different to development football. They’ve got to learn the difference between that. In development football where every team looks to play football, every team looks to be creative, playing football the right way let’s say. Then there’s winning football where teams will give you different problems. They’ll be more physical, they’ll play a different style and you have to do the fundamentals. You have to learn how to win. You have to do the fundamentals as well as being a good technical player.”
On young players not stepping up when no experienced guys out there to help them:
“It’s a good learning for us staff to find out what the players are like. Like I said, Cole did particularly well. His temperament was good in handling the situation and others, they weren’t able to impose themselves on the game. You don’t always have the support cast around. Sometimes you have to step up and be the player that you need to be in certain games.”
On the loss:
“It’s not what we were hoping for. Next game we’ve just got to get the result we’re looking for an play our game.”
On how he felt making his first team debut:
“I felt really confident. My first touches on the ball, I felt good. I wanted the ball more. I was really a great experience for me.”
On how the team will feel heading into the second leg two goals down:
“Very confident because we don’t like to lose at home. We don’t like to lose period. We’ll be very confident coming into the game because we want to defend our title.”
On what Ottawa did better to get the win:
“They played more direct. They just wanted it more. More than us. Being a MLS coming down, we can’t underestimate anyone. They just wanted it a bit more.”
On what he’s learned from his first team debut:
“If you make a mistake, don’t dwell on it, get back up, because anything can happen in a game. Get your head up and move on.”
On the result:
“I think we’ve got to look forward to next week. We dug ourselves a little bit of a hole going down two goals but we’ve got an opportunity to go through back at home and we’re a good home side. We’ll have everybody back and I think everybody is just looking forward to getting back on the field and prove what we can do.”
Why didn’t it click at times?:
“I think it did click at times. You could look at the end result and say it didn’t but I think there were moments in the game where we did click. It’s just about being a little bit more consistent. We keep repeating ourselves but it’s a tale of two halves. In the second half we come out stronger we show what we’re capable of doing, but when you did yourselves a hole with two goals, it makes it a little bit more difficult to come back. Like I said, all we can do now is to look forward to next week.”
Did Ottawa surprise Vancouver with the way they came out fast?
“They have a lot of quality players. A lot of good players that have had very good careers. They battled hard and they fought hard. At times they outworked us and at this club we don’t stand for that. We aim and want to be the hardest working team at all times and I think at times we let ourselves down tonight.”
Thoughts on Alphonso Davies:
“He was positive and he was very composed on the ball. He brought a little bit of spark to the game. 15-years-old, all credit to him, he did well when he came on.”
Thoughts on scoring the first goal just three minutes in and what it meant for the gameplan:
“You know, we were sitting on the bench and we were speaking and it was almost we didn’t really want to score that early because it can almost make you sit back a little bit. Second half, naturally, we sat back a little bit and tried to contain. Waiting for them to try and make a mistake and then try and get one on the counter attack. I think the second goal was really important because that gave us the [chance] to sit back and try and pick them off because they have really fast players.”
What does the win mean for the Fury?:
“It means we’re 2-0 up in the first leg and there’s another leg to go. It doesn’t mean much more than that. That’s only one game. Yeah it’s a fantastic occasion, but for me, the most important thing for the Fury, as a new franchise, is that we had around 9,000 people there tonight who have all seen their local team go and beat a MLS team. We’ve got to grow this game in this country and games like that mean that people are going to come back and that’s the most important thing for the Fury. There were a lot of kids there as well that can go back and idolise these players and try and repeat what they did tonight and hopefully in ten years time they’ll be doing the same thing on this pitch.”
On his hopes for next week:
“It’ll be a different team, but football’s a game where the underdog can always win, as you saw tonight. We’re good, we’re good. We’ve had a tough start to the season but our form in recent games has been good. We’re not going to get carried up. We’re 2-0 up and we’ve got to go into the lions den and take on the big dogs.”
On being respectful but not fearful of Vancouver:
“We respected them for sure. I’ve got a lot of respect for Carl and his players but as you saw, there’s absolutely no fear. We’ve got good players and the players know they’re good. This is what they live for. They train very hard to showcase themselves on the big occasion and tonight they did.”
On heading into second leg with a two goal lead:
“I’d rather have a lot more than two because it’s going to be tough. It’s normal that they’re going to give some people opportunities in the first leg. I don’t think there’ll be too many people getting opportunities in the second leg. It’s going to be much tougher going there, especially with the travel and we’ll be coming off a game [in Tampa] at the weekend as well. It’s going to be tough to go in there, but we’ve earned the chance to go and try and do it, so really proud.”
Importance of his first goal to the win:
“Just to get us going, probably a big one. Have a little bit of belief. But the second goal’s just as important as that. It’s going to be tough going up there. If we got a third maybe the game’s going to be over but 2-0 is going to be tough.”
On what win means for the club:
“I think we’re on the right path. We showed it last week when we lost to Fort Lauderdale that we dominated the game. We’re building something good here and it’s about getting to the playoffs and winning the Championship.”
On the boost of the 9000+ crowd:
“The fans were awesome throughout the whole game. It’s good to see here. I think every week they’re picking up and from every home game to this, they’ve been amazing.”
What was the message given to the team heading in to the game?:
“We just said we’re going to give everything, try our best. They probably have more quality because they’re in MLS but they have to prove it. Last Saturday we struggled a little bit but today the first shot goes inside and that makes a lot of difference.”
On how difficult it will be to focus on Saturday’s league game with Tampa with big second leg coming up?:
“We are professionals and most important is not to lose the next game. Basically now you go home, you eat, you go to bed and Saturday, you go again.”