Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Vancouver Whitecaps Residency 3 v 0 Kitsap Pumas

Friday 4th May 2012
USL Premier Development League Northwest Division
Swangard Stadium, Burnaby
Admission and Programme: Free
Attendance: 500 (estimate)
Match rating: 3

Touching down in Vancouver airport just before lunchtime, this game was very much a case of hoping I would have the energy to make it after the ten hour flight and going back eight time zones. Happily I did and so off I headed to the south west suburb of Burnaby to watch what would constitute a youthful reserve side of the Vancouver Whitecaps, before I would watch their first team the following day.

The Swangard Stadium is located about a five minute walk from Patterson station on the SkyTrain network.It used to be the home ground of the Vancouver Whitecaps first team until they were accepted into Major League Soccer, but presumably has been rather downgraded since the Whitecaps first team moved out. The only spectator accommodation is the main stand, which offers good, elevated and unobstructed views, albeit rather distant, as an athletics track lies between the stand and the pitch. The rest of the ground was unaccessible to spectators for this evening's match. The ground certainly enjoys a very picturesque setting, with three sides of the ground lined with trees from the adjacent Central Park, whilst in the distance mountains are also visible behind one of the goals. Together with free admission to this game - as seems to be the norm for Vancouver Whitecaps Residency games - a folded A4 teamsheet was also distributed without charge.

This game in the fourth tier of North American football would be the opening match of the season in the division, and would see the reigning champions visit the team who finished in third place last season. The Whitecaps team was predominently an Under 23 team, with a sprinkling of older members of the first team squad given a run out. On paper, it looked a tough assignment for the Whitecaps Residency team. In Kitsap Pumas, one of the few professional teams in the league, they would be taking on not only the reigning champions of the Northwest Division, but of the entire Premier Development League, having won the end of season play-offs. The Whitecaps Residency teams also have a poor head to head history against Kitsap Pumas, losing four and drawing the other of the five games to have taken place between the two sides previously.

Considering Kitsap Pumas' dominance of the league last season and in games between these two sides, this game was quite remarkable, as the Whitecaps Residency team dominated the game by controlling play and playing good cohesive football, whilst the Pumas struggled to retain possession and had a rather amateurish bordering on shambolic look about them. The home team deservedly went ahead on 14 minutes, when the ball was crossed from wide by Carlos Marquez and Michael Boxall bundled the ball home from close range. Ten minutes later and Whitecaps Residency doubled their advantage, when Yassin Essa surged forward before playing the ball into the path of Carlos Marquez, who fired the ball low into the corner of the net. Just before half time, the home side made in 3-0, with the same players combining as they had for the second goal, as Essa crossed the ball and Marquez volleyed the ball first time into the net.

The third goal surely killed the game as a contest, and indeed the second half was a poor affair. The Pumas came much more into the game, but that was mainly because the Whitecaps Residency dropped the pace of their play considerably and still looked in complete control of the game. The Pumas did have several good chances midway through the second half, but one felt that the Whitecaps would have been able to up their game if the need had arisen.

Video hightlights of this game can be found at http://www.whitecapsfc.com/video/2012/05/05/pdl-win-over-kitsap-pumas

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