Report and Reaction: Advantage Whitecaps after narrow first leg win, but Canadian Championship semi-final with Pacific still very much in the balance

Report and Reaction: Advantage Whitecaps after narrow first leg win, but Canadian Championship semi-final with Pacific still very much in the balance

Vancouver Whitecaps got another victory in the Battle of BC, coming away with a narrow first leg lead in their Canadian Championship semi-final showdown with Pacific FC at Starlight Stadium on Wednesday night.

Ryan Gauld’s superb 58th minute header was the difference between the two teams, with both goalkeepers coming up with some important saves to keep their opponents from adding to the scoreboard.

It leaves a tie on a knife-edge, with a tantalising second leg coming up at BC Place in six weeks’ time. The Whitecaps may have the advantage and what could be a crucial away goal, but the Canadian Premier League side will be confident they can cross the Salish Sea and shock their MLS rivals.

Vanni Sartini went with a vert strong line-up for the game, with both Gauld and Brian White starting up front. With the three Canadians rule in effect, they were joined by Levonte Johnson up front, with Ralph Priso sliding into the middle, and Isaac Boehmer starting in goal in a 3-4-3 formation.

Not that they needed any reminding, but Forge’s win over Toronto an hour or so earlier, reiterated just how up for it the CPL sides would be in these two semi-finals. Pacific looked to come out fast in this one, trying to get the early breakthrough and put the ‘Caps immediately on the back foot, while Vancouver knew how important an away goal or two would be for the two-legged tie. A clean sheet to boot would be a perfect night at the office.

The game flowed back and forth in the fast-paced opening exchanges, with both teams having looks on goal without really testing either keeper.

Four minutes later and another Whitecaps corner caused more problems, running through everyone and bouncing around the six yard box before it was cleared.

Vancouver kept the pressure on and Emil Gazdov made his first save of the evening to keep out a Gauld shot.

Johnson had the first real chance to break the deadlock, flicking on a Gauld corner to the near post in the 15th minute, but his effort landed on top of the net.

Pacific forced a corner just past the half hour mark when the ball was played in to Josh Heard at the near post, forcing a coming together with Boehmer, with the ball bouncing off the ‘Caps keeper and out.

Heard had an even better chance in the 42nd minute. The ball came to him in front of goal, but after not taking it first time, he took too many touches to try and get a shot off. With so much Whitecaps traffic then in front of him, it deflected for a corner.

The game finally opened up again in the closing minutes of the first half.

Sebastian Berhalter had a shot blocked in the box in the 44th minute. The rebound fell to Johnson, who could only look on in anguish as his shot was cleared off the Pacific line by Thomas Meilleur-Giguere.

The home side immediately broke and Heard tore forward, only to be brought down by Bjorn Inge Utvik, who picked up a yellow card, with the home side asking for more.

Scoreless at the half, Pacific would have been the far happier side. A 0-0 draw may not be exciting, but it would set them up nicely for the second leg. Going into that game at BC Place with a lead, would be even more ideal.

It was the Whitecaps that had the first chance of the second half in the 49th minute, with White rising to superbly meet a Berhalter cross in from the left, but his header was expertly turned away by Gazdov.

The ‘Caps were looking the more likely team to break the deadlock and it came in the 58th minute.

Andres Cubas was almost dispossessed by Reon Moore just inside the Pacific half but he recovered well to keep the ball for Vancouver. A few moments and passes later and Mathias Laborda whipped a ball in from the right win with pinpoint placement onto the head of Gauld, whose delightful head flick guided the ball past Gazdov and into the far corner, and the Whitecaps had the lead.

It was the away goal and cushion the ‘Caps craved but they couldn’t just sit back and defend it, and they knew Pacific would start to take the game to them in return.

Pacific sub Ayman Sellouf brought a save out of Boehmer in the 70th minute, before the ‘Caps keeper was called into action four minutes later to deny Steffen Yeates’ shot, after he collected the ball from a corner.

The home side kept the pressure on from the subsequent corner and Cedric Toussant curled one narrowly wide.

Boehmer came up with a big save of Sellouf in the 84th minute, smothering the ball with Pacific players waiting to pounce on any rebound.

That was to be it for Pacific and the ‘Caps saw the game out securing their three main objectives for the evening – a win, an away goal, and a clean sheet. Now they head into the second leg incredibly in six weeks time, with an advantage, albeit one that can be wiped out any second with a Pacific goal.

For Pacific, they are still very much in this tie. Cavalry went to BC Place and shocked the Whitecaps, but it wasn’t enough after giving up two goals in the first leg. The islanders will use that as full motivation that it can be done again, this time successfully for the CPL side.

It’s all set up to be a cracker on August 27th.

FINAL SCORE: Pacific FC 0 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps

ATT: 5,103

58’ – VAN – Ryan Gauld (Mathías Laborda)

Possession: PAC 39.2% – VAN 60.8%
Shots: PAC 12 – VAN 18
Shots on Goal: PAC 5 – VAN 5
Saves: PAC 3 – VAN 5
Fouls: PAC 10 – VAN 7
Offsides: PAC 0 – VAN 2
Corners: PAC 4 – VAN 6

45’ – VAN – Bjørn Inge Utvik
71’ – VAN – Brian White
82’ – PAC – Cedric Toussaint

PACIFIC: Emil Gazdov; Kunle Dada-Luke, Juan Quintana, Thomas Meilleur-Giguere, Eric Lajuenesse; Pierre Lamothe (Aymen Sellouf 67’), Sean Young, Cedric Toussaint; Steffan Yates; Reon Moore (Dario Zanatta 80’), Josh Heard (Georges Mukumbilwa 71’) [Substitutes not used: Sean Melvin, Paul Amedume, Zachary Bahous, Andrei Tircoveanu]

VANCOUVER: Isaac Boehmer; Mathías Laborda, Ranko Veselinović, Bjørn Inge Utvik; Sebastian Berhalter, Ralph Priso (Pedro Vite 64’), Andrés Cubas (Jeevan Badwal 88’), Alessandro Schöpf (Giuseppe Bovalina 64’); Ryan Gauld (Damir Kreilach 75’), Brian White, Levonte Johnson (Belal Halbouni 88’) [Substitutes not used: Yohei Takaoka, Fafa Picault]




On the match:

“I think it played out the kind of game that we expected. This season in the CPL, Pacific is one of the more solid defensive teams, and they had this attitude today too, playing very compact, very low and they were trying to counter. I think in the first half we were too stubborn in trying to do something that was very difficult, and so at the end of the first half we told the guys that we should have played more balls in behind to threaten more. It paid off almost immediately, to be honest, because we had a great chance with Brian [White] and Emil [Gazdov] made that fantastic save. And then with another ball in the box, we scored the goal. I think we won, deservedly so, but the game was very tight, very intense and it’s always hard to come here and play. I’m satisfied with the effort of tonight.”

On defending the Voyageurs Cup:

“Tonight, the main thing was that we are three games away, now two games away, from winning another trophy. It was imperative tonight to do the job to set us up perfectly for the second leg. We did a good job and that was the main motivation. The other thing is that even if it’s a semifinal, it’s also a derby and every time we come here it’s always a little special. They [Pacific], of course, give 110% instead of 100% so that’s the way we motivate our players. And to be honest, in terms of effort, being concentrated, doing the right things, [it] has been really good and I’m really satisfied with the effort.”


On the match:

“It’s all about focus. Every ball we played, we refocused for everything and we showed it in the 90 minutes that we were ready for it. We never thought that it was going to be easy, but we just came, we did what we had to do, and we’re ready for the second leg.”

On returning to Pacific FC where he played on loan:

“It’s nice, I was here three years ago. It was a nice time in my career, we won a championship here. That was special. It’s nice to come here and get my first clean sheet with the team.”

Authored by: Michael McColl

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