There’s been a lot of excitement seen, a lot of pleasure gleaned, a lot of development undertaken, and a lot of all-round positives, but after a wild ride, WFC2’s second USL season has reached it’s end.
The young ‘Caps playoff juggernaut was brought to a shuddering stop in Kansas City on Saturday night, as the young ‘Caps battled hard but fell short in the USL Western Conference final, going down 3-0 to a well organised Swope Park Rangers side.
It was never a three goal game, but Swope deserved their victory.
The Whitecaps started strong and looked the better side both immediately before and after Kris Tyrpak opened the scoring in the 8th minute. The Swope striker has been an irritant for Vancouver all season, scoring in both of the regular season meetings between the teams, and he slotted home the opener after a strong initial save from Spencer Richey.
Even after going behind to an early goal, you were confident that the ‘Caps were going to get back into things. Their play dictated that, and they’d shown resolve in coming back from going behind to a similar early goal against Colorado Springs in the first round of the playoffs that you knew they had it in them.
But even though they were moving the ball about nicely, WFC2 weren’t troubling the Swope goal, and when Tyrpak ghosted in at the back post to slide home Rangers’ second in the 32nd minute, it was always then going to be an uphill struggle after that.
In all honesty, once it went to 2-0, you didn’t even fancy Vancouver to grab one goal, never mind the two or three they needed. Swope were now very much in control and looking solid defensively.
The ‘Caps really needed to pull one back before the break, but didn’t even come close, and although they huffed and puffed for much of the second half, you felt that Swope were capable of a quick breakaway to kill the game off at any time as Vancouver pushed forward in swathes.
The closest the ‘Caps came was from a fierce, dipping Kianz Froese effort 20 minutes from time that brought out a sprawling save from Adrian Zendejas. How much of a game changer that would have been, we’ll never know, but it would have made for a edge of the seat finish for sure.
— Whitecaps FC 2 (@wfc2) October 16, 2016
Full credit to Alan Koch’s young steeds, they never let their heads drop and battled to the very end, getting caught on a quick break by Dane Kelly in the final minute, who showed the type of composure that’s made him the USL’s all-time leading scorer.
Kelly’s goal gave Swope the 3-0 win. Deserved, but flattering none the less.
All that’s left now for WFC2 is to take a step back for some reflection and start planning for next season.
Everyone connected to the team should feel pride at what they’ve achieved this season. The turnaround has been a joy to watch, and if we’re being honest, the scale of it is surprising. This always looked like a playoff team, but to come to within two wins of the USL Championship is more than most would have expected.<br.
Koch has assembled an exciting young squad, packed full of local talent with a lot of upside and a lot of time on their side to continue to get even better. As disappointing as losing a Conference final is, we have to remember that the prime purpose of this team is development.
Development of young players coming through the ranks and pushing for first team contracts, and development for those fringe players already on the MLS squad but in need of regular, competitive minutes.
We’ll have a full breakdown of the squad and what should be next for some of them and the team moving forward next week. The successes of seeing Brett Levis and Alphonso Davies move up from the USL side to sign MLS contracts is the direction everyone wants to be heading with WFC2 (admittedly Davies is a special case all to himself).
Others are knocking at the MLS door, while others still are finding their feet and thriving in their first professional environment.
We’re gutted by the loss to Swope, as are all the players and coaching staff. This one will hurt for a while, and the overriding feeling will likely be that they didn’t perform to the levels that they’ve shown that they are capable of.
But credit has to also go to Marc Dos Santos and Swope Park for not allowing them to do so. As infuriating as it is to admit, Dos Santos certainly seems to have the measure of Whitecaps sides in USL playoffs going all the way back to the pre MLS era with Montreal.
The ‘Caps regret and disappointment at the loss and the performance will only serve to motivate this squad to work even harder this offseason and come back better and hungrier than ever.
They’ve set the bar high for those that follow, and there will be some significant movement in the squad this offseason. Some players have come to the end of their time as a Whitecap. Some simply aren’t good enough to move on to the next level, and that includes some well known names. It’ll be tough, but there’s a new crop of talent coming through to take their place. That’s the reality.
On a personal level, it’s been a joy to cover the team this year. A shining light in a dark season in Whitecapsland. The hard work for next season starts tomorrow. We can’t wait to see the fruits of it, and as with this season, you’ll be able to follow it every step of the way here on AFTN.