Residency Week 2014: The agony and the ecstasy of the USSDA playoffs

Residency Week 2014: The agony and the ecstasy of the USSDA playoffs

Vancouver Whitecaps’ Residency teams just failed to do a historic double in Indiana during the USSDA playoffs week.

There was agony for the U18s on Thursday as they narrowly lost to the number one ranked team in North America, thanks to the controversial sending off of goalkeeper Marco Carducci.

But that heartbreak turned to happier times today, when the U16’s fought back from behind to hit four unanswered goals, clinch their group and land a home quarter final tie in around ten days time.

It’s these kinds of heartbreaks and joys that help with the development of young players. I’m a firm believer that you can’t fully appreciate the joy of winning if you haven’t suffered the pain of defeat.

The U18s may be hurting just now, but it will a motivation for them to bounce back, take it up to the next level in their careers, and lift some silverware.

Both squads did themselves, the Whitecaps and all of us back here in Vancouver proud this past week and the future is definitely looking bright for both the Caps and Canadian football (it should be noted that Montreal’s U18s did make it through to the last eight, so well done to them).

The Caps U18s knew they had a tough task ahead of them if they were to qualify for the last eight and so it proved for them in Group F.

The week had got off to a mixed start for the guys, taking a point from their first group game on Monday in a 2-2 draw with Solar Chelsea. The Caps had gone into a 2-0 lead in the opening half hour thanks to goals from Terran Campbell and Ali Musse. As the heat, humidity and tiredness took hold though they conceded twice in the second half for what still wasn’t a bad draw to get in their opening game.

Learning from that game and slowly adjusting to the conditions, the Caps bounced back with a 4-0 trouncing of Georgia United on Tuesday. Marco Bustos hit a brace, with a goal in each half, with Kianz Froese making it 2-0 in the first half and Mason James rounding off the scoring with six minutes remaining. Marco Carducci claimed the clean sheet, as the Caps moved to second in their group on four points.

With only the group winners advancing, the Caps went into their last group game on Thursday knowing that a win would see them reach the last eight for the third straight year.

Up against them was the number one ranked U18 team in the USSDA, Bethesda-Olney from Rockville, Maryland, a side that conceded just 22 goals during their regular season and banged in 92.

Bethesda-Olney had won their first two games and were heavy favourites but Vancouver took the game to them and quickly went out into a two goal lead by the 22nd minute mark, thanks to a brace from Nicholas Prasad from two Mitch Piraux corners.

The turning point came moments after Prasad’s second when Carducci was sent off for a controversial foul in the box. Bethesda-Olney’s top scorer, Jeremy Ebobisse Ebo, drilled home the spot kick and added another two to give his side a 3-2 lead by the 56th minute.

The Caps hit back a minute later through Chris Serban, but they couldn’t fight off the top seeds and eventually went down 5-3.

It was hard to take for the young Caps, whose 9 goals was the third highest amongst all the U18 playoff teams and more than six of the group winners. A brave effort but the tough draw and the sending off ultimately hit them hard.

And that tough draw came about, in part, as a result of the Caps being depleted on several occasions this year when players were away at the U17 World Cup with Canada and at national team camps. Points were lost and a lower seeding came about as a result. Still, it was a great season and a good playoff run.

“We’re so proud of the boys and the effort they’ve given us,” U18 head coach Steve Meadley told WhitecapsFC.com. “These boys represented the club this week like the young professionals that they are. We’re absolutely gutted for them, but it was a brilliant, brilliant learning experience for them today. They’ll grow from this.”

They most surely will, but whilst there was agony for the U18s on Thursday, there was ecstasy for the U16s on Friday, who reached the quarter finals for the first time.

The U16s did it in some style too, topping Group C with a perfect record of three wins and recording two clean sheets in the process and scoring 7 goals.

They also had to put up with storm delays in their first two matches, being evacuated off the pitch as the rain and lightning came.

Their first match was on Tuesday, and two second half goals from top scorer Dario Zanatta saw them get their week off to the perfect start with a 2-0 victory over Match Fit Academy.

Wednesday brought a tough all MLS academy battle, but another goal from Zanatta, this time early in the 9th minute, was enough to see the Caps win 1-0 over Houston Dynamo, with keeper Aidan Aylward keeping his second straight clean sheet.

The big game came on Friday morning against top seeds Weston, who also had a perfect record. They had won the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference, as the Caps found themselves in the only group with two divisional winners.

Scoreless at the half, Weston struck first three minutes after the break but that only galvanised the Caps and they hit four answered goals to take the win and the group.

Zanatta grabbed his fourth of the week to get the Caps back on level terms in the 52nd minute, firing home a Matthew Baldisimo pass. Then two goals in a minute struck the killer blow, the first from Eric de Graaf and then a beauty from Hayden Simmonds-O’Grady. Riley Pang put the icing on the cake with then minutes remaining to secure a 4-1 win.

“It’s been a great week,” U16 head coach Rich Fagan told WhitecapsFC.com. “Every single player, all 18 of them, have given their absolute all every game. I’m so pleased that they performed well and now ultimately they’re being rewarded for their effort and their performance.”

That reward now comes in the form of a home playoff game. Under the new format, the Caps will host Chicago Magic PSG on either July 7th or 9th, with the winner advancing to the Final Four in LA soon after.

Chicago won Group E this week on 7 points, having got there by finishing second in the Mid-America Division of the Central Conference.

We had fears of the Caps being screwed over and not being allowed to host in Vancouver, ala SFU in the NCAA, but those fears seem unfounded, with Chicago Magic stating on their Facebook page that they are “Vancouver bound”.

We’ll confirm all the details of the playoff date as soon as we can, but hopefully we can get a great support out for the game if it is at a decent time.

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