Canada’s champs march on.
Just when it was looking like Vancouver Whitecaps grip on the Voyageurs Cup was loosening, the ‘Caps brought out their big guns and hit Ottawa Fury with a South American inspired threesome to pull out a 3-2 aggregate win in their Canadian Championship semi-final at BC Place on Wednesday night.
It was a great, attacking performance from start to finish and they’ll need to do that again in two weeks time when they take on Toronto for this year’s trophy and a place in next season’s CONCACAF Champions League.
Get it done lads.
REPORT (by Steve Pandher):
Down two goals after the first leg, Vancouver Whitecaps needed to strike early and often if they were to advance in the Voyageurs Cup. They accomplished the first part when Pedro Morales converted a second minute penalty after Nicolas Mezquida was brought down in the box.
They nearly made it two seconds later but had to wait until twenty minutes in before the first leg deficit was erased in full.
Ottawa’s keeper Romuald Peiser had to come up big when he made a double save off of Nicolas Mezquida and Matias Laba. Unfortunately for the visitors the Caps kept possession as Morales sent a cross to the far post where Octavio Rivero headed the ball back into the path of Mezquida who finished with his own header to even the aggregate score at two.
Paolo Tornaghi had to come up big twice in the first half when he tipped a Carl Howarth shot over the bar and then stopping Marcel de Jong on a breakaway keeping Ottawa from getting what would have been a killer away goal.
In a story that would have written itself, 15-year-old Alphonso Davies came close to getting a third goal for the Caps in the first half, hitting the post and then setting up Rivero, who just missed the top corner of the net.
Vancouver didn’t have to wait long after the break to get that third score. Rivero was sent into the box on the right side and placed a perfect shot off the far post to give the ‘Caps the go ahead goal and what proved to be the winner.
The home side had a few opportunities to get a fourth goal, with Rivero hitting the bar and both Rivero and Manneh getting stopped by Peiser on golden chances from in close.
Ottawa pushed hard in the closing minutes to grab their own aggregate winner, but despite some frayed nerves, they couldn’t muster any real threats on Vancouver’s goal and the ‘Caps held on for the 3-0 victory on the night and 3-2 on aggregate.
With the victory the Whitecaps will have a chance to repeat as Canadian Champions and they now face Toronto, who dispatched Montreal Impact 4-2. That match will take place out east in two weeks time, with the return leg a week later at BC Place.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 3 – 0 Ottawa Fury [Vancouver advance 3-2 on aggregate]
VANCOUVER: Paolo Tornaghi; Jordan Smith, Andrew Jacobson, Tim Parker, Jordan Harvey; Matías Laba, Pedro Morales; Cristian Techera (Erik Hurtado 75), Nicolás Mezquida (Russell Teibert 80), Alphonso Davies (Kekuta Manneh 84); Octavio Rivero [Substitutes not used: David Ousted, Sam Adekugbe, Cole Seiler, Kianz Froese]
OTTAWA: Romuald Peiser; Lance Rozeboom, Rafael Alves, Fernando (Timbo) Sanfelice, Onua Obasi; Jonny Steele, James Bailey; Paulo Junior (Idan Vered 74), Bryan Olivera (Julian de Guzman 58), Marcel de Jong (Kyle Porter 46); Carl Haworth [Substitutes not used: Marcel DeBellis, Dennis Chin, Mauro Eustaquio]
Thoughts on the match:
“We wanted to get the first goal, the first goal in any game is key and I generally believed, I said to the guys that they were the favourites coming into this game because they had two goals lead from a deserved performance last Wednesday and if we weren’t concentrated and focused for 90 minutes and they got the first goal then we would be in an extremely difficult hole. So I made sure the concentration levels were spot on and to press when we had a chance and try and get that first goal, and I thought that it came at a key time for us. I was disappointed we didn’t score a minute after, because I thought we had another key chance then. But it’s usually when you wait for buses that they don’t come do they, and another one doesn’t come for 20 minutes, so…”
Thoughts on Alphonso Davies:
“He did okay. Listen, I’m a big advocate of young players as you all know, and I don’t like it sometimes when players get built up. And I say to you media guys that I know very well. The reason that I don’t like it is because when you build them up, you knock them down. I don’t want that. It’s important that he keeps his feet on the ground. He’s a young kid, he’s got natural ability, we know that. He’s one of a number of younger kids we’ve got that we think have got incredible potential. But it’s potential, there’s so many players that have potential that don’t fulfill it. I wanted to give Alphonso a chance because I thought that he was ready, and he didn’t look out of place. All credit to him, I know his mom and dad and coach would be very proud of him.”
Thoughts on the back line:
“Well we needed to defend well, because I’ve got to give Ottawa a lot of credit because they, I wouldn’t say bullied us but, in fact I will say bullied us. Let me say bullied us in the first leg and it was an eye opener for a couple of the young guys I’ve got on that roster. They deservedly should have been the two goals ahead that they were, but I made sure that we weren’t getting bullied today. I probably played more senior guys then I would have liked because we were in a little bit of a hole. But the experience at the back; AJ has played three games at centre back for me and he’s been excellent. And Jordan Smith again has got the shirt, and I’ve said all along that if you’ve got the shirt, keep the shirt. I want competition for places, I want players to have to fight for their place, have to earn their place, because you get the best out of players and players need it. If players are comfortable, and they know that they’re going to start week in and week out, then they get a little bit lazy sometimes. Those two, as well as Timmy and Jordan, they never let you down these guys so it was a good performance from the back four and Paolo as well who came up with some key saves.”
The team couldn’t seem to decide whether the attack or defend in the closing minutes. What was the plan and how was he feeling during the nervy end?:
“My mind was saying the game is not over, because they’re a big team and they’re very dangerous on set plays. We were giving too many set plays up. I’m quite happy to win 3-0. We’re through in the tie. I brought [guys] on to be more solid, but players are players. Sometimes they do the other thing. They wanted to score the fourth goal. It was a great occasion, the fans enjoyed the performance and they probably wanted to put the icing on the cake. It didn’t come but it’s probably given me a few more grey hairs.”
On going for a more experienced line-up after young players struggled last week:
“It was a no win situation for us. I’ve done it before and I’ll continue to do it, and that’s play the young kids in certain games. I’ve got to find out if these players are good enough and if they’re ready. Last Wednesday I made that decision and it didn’t go our way and I couldn’t take that chance again, so I didn’t. “
On not wanting to lend reign as champs and playing for pride:
“There’s pride on the line. It’s their cup final again. They made it out of their cup final last week and they done it again today. We were very professional today and that’s not taking anything away from Ottawa. Great credit to them. They were running on fumes at the end and so were we. But we needed to do it. We didn’t want to go out at the semi-final stage. We did that two years ago against Toronto on penalties. We won it last year. It’s our Cup and we want to try and defend it. We worked so hard last year to win it and we want to try and do it again. There’s certainly a lot of pride on the line.”
On Nicolas Mezquida and Octavio Rivero’s relationship on and off the pitch:
“Nico and Octavio were great. They’re best mates off the field and they hang about together. I said to them, I want them to be close together. Be 15 yards apart. We walked through it in training and they did. Then yesterday after training, they literally both went into the shower together and came out together! And I said, woah, listen guys, not to that extent. Nico enjoys playing with Octavio, Octavio enjoys playing with Nico and the chemistry between them in the first 20 minutes was excellent. It really was.”
On whether Octavio Rivero is back:
“He’s never been away. Strikers, they go through stages of goal and strikers are judged on goals. They’re also judged on the way they play and the way they work and they way they hold the ball up, they way they run and move. Octavio got a little bit of luck with his goal in New York. Now he’s scored he’s obviously scored a couple more. He was never away.”
ALPHONSO DAVIES (on TSN)
Any nerves for your first, first team start?
“No, not really. When I came on in Ottawa, I was really excited to come in. I played my game and I just wanted to do the same here.”
On other players looking after him out there:
“Yeah, they’re a bunch of big brothers. I really enjoyed having them. They had my back on the field.”
On if he felt physically overpowered against grown men:
“Not really. I think physicality wise, I can compete. It’s just they run faster and are stronger than me, but I can keep up with them.”
On hitting the post:
“My coaches were telling me before the game, take him on one on one. If you have a one on one, go at them, shoot, do what you know. So I did what I know, hit the post and unfortunately it didn’t go in.”
On the ovation he got when he was subbed off:
“Yeah I really enjoyed that. The atmosphere was great. They cheered me on, and were behind me the whole way.”
Thoughts on the team defending well:
“Yes, I think we have been saying it for a while, we just want go back to the basics. I think the guys did a great job up front by pressuring them on the ball, so it makes our job easier because it makes the play a little bit predictable. But I think for us it was about being clean, precise in the back, and make sure that every clearance, every pass, and everything that we did was going to be correct.”
On playing in another Canadian Championship final:
“I think looking forward in this cup is going to be interesting. We went to Toronto this year and we were fortunate enough to win there, but it was a strong battle. Obviously Toronto is going to try to get the cup from us, but I think it’s all about the way we go attitude wise into this final and obviously we will do our best to defend this cup and we know it is going to be a battle to win.”
On how much pride played a factor in motivation:
“It was very important to win tonight. Defending the cup was very important for this club and for the fans, and also for the players. Obviously we don’t want to take anything from Ottawa because at their home field they played phenomenal, they played to our weaknesses. Tonight we were lucky enough to have an early goal and it kind of helped us out throughout the match because we had pressure throughout the match…but we just had lot of motivation and lot of determination to try to get this win tonight.”
Thoughts on the match and playing with fellow Uruguayans Techera and Rivero:
“We knew this game was going to be difficult because we were two goals under, so we knew we had to score fast because we didn’t have enough time to win the game. Apart from Octavio and Cristian Techera, everyone played a great game today like Matias, Tim, Alphonso. We have to stay in this way, grow up and play good.”
On team’s performance:
“It was a horror start for us, to give away a penalty, and it was a penalty. We were well deservedly beaten tonight I think. Vancouver hit the post, hit the bar, our goalkeeper had great saves. We had some chances as well, we tried to make it as exciting as we can, but I think the amount of games …we were flat, a little bit. The amount of games we’ve had and the travel. We tried our best; we made it as difficult as we could for Vancouver. We came up against a very good team and we just came up a little bit short.”
On the team’s travel in the past week:
“In all honesty, it doesn’t help. But I don’t want to make that an excuse. Vancouver were really really good tonight, and they beat us deservedly so. It was almost comical at the end there, people hopping on the pitch, Onua trying to cross it and he stayed off the pitch. We gave absolutely everything. WE said to the guys, ‘let’s give everything, let’s dig deep and see how much we can give, and let’s have something to tell our children about – a storied victory’. Unfortunately we just came a little bit short, but the players gave absolutely everything.”
On how proud he is of the team:
“I’m proud of these players every day. I work with them every day, and I’m proud of them every day. We’ve got to now focus on the league and if we show some of the courage and the desire that we showed today, and the quality, especially in the first leg, we should be a match for anybody in the NASL and that’s what we’ve got to focus on.”
Thoughts on Alphonso Davies:
“Look, I watch a lot of games. We look in the USL for players, and I’ve seen that Whitecaps FC 2 have had great success this year, him and [Daniel] Haber o the wings and Kyle Greig up front. He’s a real real exciting talent. He’s brilliant, for 15 years of age to do that. At 15, I couldn’t even look people in the eye. And he’s going out and taking men on, and looking absolutely magnificent. Listen, the Vancouver Whitecaps is a great organization. They produce top young players, as you can see with the results of their academy and the Whitecaps FC 2 team this year. He’s the shining light, he’s the cherry on top of the cake. I think everybody in Canada must be excited at the prospect of him playing for the national team for years and years, because with the ability he’s got he should go on to do big things, not only for Vancouver but for the national team as well.”
On if he could see a difference in talent for Whitecaps FC compared to the first leg:
“My eyes aren’t painted on. I think it was very very easy to see the difference in class. They were brilliant tonight. You’re sitting there, and you can see our guys getting tired. Then you’ve got Hurtado coming on, Kekuta Manneh coming on and you’re like ‘oh no’. So you see the difference in quality, and rightly so, and that’s what you expect. But as I said, we gave absolutely everything. We couldn’t have given any more. Yeah we can improve certain things tactically, we can learn from it, but actual effort, guts and determination, we couldn’t have given any more.”
On positives of 9,000 fans for the first leg:
“You’re not really thinking of that just now. You’re thinking of going through. The game, you win 2-0 against an MLS team at home and you have a good fan base there and they enjoy the moment, and I suppose that is what we’ve got to take from it. We gave our fan base a night to remember at home, and I suppose that is what we’ve got to take from it, and hopefully they keep coming back.”
JULIAN DE GUZMAN
Thoughts on the match:
“I mean, I felt we let ourselves down from the get go. You come into a game with a 2-0 lead, and you blow it right in the first minute. That puts us in a difficult situation. And then right after that we give away another goal, so I mean ideally we wanted to finish the first half with at least a tie, and then that wasn’t the case; the series was pretty much tied up end of the first half. Going into the second half, same scenario, the way we started the game. Right off the bat, first five minutes into the second half they get the go ahead goal, and then from that point on we end up chasing the game. I mean, throughout the game we did have a couple chances, we could have scored; I thought there were a couple positives, but I think in general we could’ve managed the game a lot better as a unit, and I think that’s where we let ourselves down.”
Discussion of positives for Ottawa Fury:
“I guess the experience of playing against an MLS team, you know making it this far as well and that means showing that we can learn from something like this. Having a 2-0 lead at home, you know there’s different ways of going about it. I think it was a very interesting experience and run for the Ottawa Fury, for ourselves, and I think it just shows that we still have something to prove in the future, so something to look to in the upcoming years, but as of now you know we enjoy what we had for the Amway Cup and most importantly now it’s just focusing on the rest of the season.”
Discussion of fatigue in comparison to Vancouver’s week off:
“With the amount of players we have in our squad, it’s never easy to manage such a hectic schedule. Playing midweek games, playing on the weekend, and then we fly back to Ottawa tomorrow, and that we’re only allowed maybe not even 48 hours to recover before the next game, so it’s been really tough in the last stretch of the spring season. For myself and Marcel, leaving Austria, nine hours back to Ottawa, no more than 48 hours back on the plane again for another five hour trip. You jump into three different time zones within 48 hours, it’s never easy to manage as well. I mean, Marcel’s younger so I mean he was able to keep going until the unfortunate injury he picked up, but for myself it’s, at this point in my career, it’s all about how you manage yourself in between games and how my body is able to recover, so you know I was glad to get some minutes in. I’m still not fully game fit, but I’m going to continue to need these type of minutes to get myself back on my feet.”