VANCOUVER, BC — Vancouver Whitecaps struggles continue.
In front of an announced attendance of 16,098 fans, the ‘Caps were defeated 2-1 by Calgary-based Cavalry FC and eliminated from the Canadian Championship.
With Cavalry carrying a 0-0 draw into the second leg, the Whitecaps headed into the match knowing they had to win.
To the horror of the Whitecaps’ fans, however, the situation quickly turned sour when Cavalry took an early lead in the seventh minute. Cavalry striker Jordan Brown took on two Whitecaps defenders at the edge of the box, turned them inside out and curled the ball home.
“As soon as we concede one goal it is like a mountain for us right now,” head coach Marc Dos Santos said after the game. “Every hard thing is a big blow for us right now.”
For Cavalry, everything went according to plan.
“We knew it would mean that the Whitecaps then had to come out and score, which meant they had to play a highline,” Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon said after the game.
Things went from bad to worse for the Whitecaps. Just five minutes after the opening goal by Cavalry, Whitecaps defender Erik Godoy missed the open net from just six yards out.
The Whitecaps dominated all the key stats in the first half. They had more possession (69%) and led in passes, but Cavalry was the more dangerous team going forward.
“We just tried to keep the ball in front of us, because as soon as we had it we knew we could break forward,” Wheeldon said. “We are very good in transition and we knew we could a set play in.”
“They are easy to calculate,” Cavalry FC midfielder Julian Büscher said of the Whitecaps. “You take out Yordy Reyna and you give Ali Adnan room to run out, and play fast forward and you can hurt them.”
Calvary came out well organized defensively, played the ball out of the back with precision and was dangerous in transition.
With the season on the line, Vancouver manager Marc Dos Santos made two switches early. Lucas Venuto came on in the 27th minute for Lass Bangoura and Andy Rose made way for Joaquín Ardáiz in the 46th minute.
The switches brought some attacking urgency and in the 68th minute, the Whitecaps found a lifeline. Theo Bair had a shot blocked inside the box, the ball bounced out to Hwang In Beom, and his deflected shot beat Cavalry FC goalkeeper Marco Carducci.
“I want to say no,” Carducci said when asked if he ever had doubts after Cavalry conceded. “They had to score two goals and we didn’t concede more than one goal many times this year.”
But even two Whitecaps goals would not have been enough. Because just four minutes later Cavalry FC’s Dominick Zator headed home a corner from the right to bring the Canadian Premier League side back upfront.
“When you don’t score a lot of goals, your defense has to be perfect,” Dos Santos said. “Cavalry FC had a chance and a half and scored two goals.”
Then in the 76th minute Whitecaps’ striker, Yordy Reyna missed an open net after a giveaway by keeper Carducci.
“It was a night that I feel that we could have stayed there another two hours and it would have been difficult to score,” Dos Santos said.
With 14 minutes left, that miss erased any glimmer of hope there could be a miracle comeback for the ‘Caps.
“Unfortunately, we are a young team, and in key moments we need to be more mature,” Dos Santos said.
Meanwhile, Cavalry FC celebrated becoming the first Canadian Premier League side to reach the final four of the Canadian Championship, where they will face the Montreal Impact.
“Every player out there has defied the odds, whether it was the first leg at home at Spruce Meadows or out here it was one of the greatest victories we had,” Wheeldon said.
Vancouver Whitecaps (4-3-3)
Crépeau – Adnan, Henry, Godoy, Nerwinski (Sutter, 84′) – Rose (Ardáiz, 46′), In Beom, Felipe – Bair, Reyna, Bangoura (Venuto, 27′)
Cavalry FC (3-4-3)
Carducci – Trafford, Wheeldon, Zator – Mavila, Büscher (Adekugbe, 86′), Ledgerwood, Pasquotti (Eustáquio, 75′) – Escalante, Brown, Camargo (Oliver, 90′)