VICTORIA, BC – On a windy afternoon at Centennial Stadium in Victoria, Vancouver Whitecaps FC came away with a 1-0 victory in their annual friendly match against the University of Victoria Vikes.
The Vikes defended admirably for 90 minutes, led by a standout performance from goalkeeper Noah Pawlowski. However, continued pressure from Vancouver finally produced a goal in the dying seconds when Andre Lewis slotted home a fine cross from Omar Salgado.
The Caps came out attacking from the get-go in front of 2,500 fans who braved the cold to watch the Blue and White come to town. The visitors had their first opportunity only three minutes into the match as Sam Adekugbe raced down the left flank and whipped a low cross into the box. Darren Mattocks got on the end of it, but could only manage to deflect it over the crossbar.
Five minutes later the Blue and White were at it again. Russell Teibert got the ball on the left and lobbed in a ball to Hurtado who headed it towards net before it was cleared off the line. Teibert was the provider again on 14 minutes when he sent a cross to the back post. Sebastian Fernandez got a header on goal, but into the arms of Pawlowski. Seconds later, Nigel Reo-Coker darted through the middle and made a great pass to spring Mattocks on a breakaway before the Jamaican's low shot was well saved by Pawlowski.
Looking for a first goal, Fernandez had a couple looks on net. First, on 24 minutes, the Uruguayan made a nice run before firing a strike at Pawloski. Then, on 31 minutes, Fernandez had a low shot from the top of the box that rolled wide of the net.
Fernandez' countryman had the next opportunity for the 'Caps, the best chance of the first half. After playing a ball to Mattocks, the Jamaican played a clever backheel to Nicolas Mezquida before his low shot was stopped by Pawlowski.
Despite spending most of the first half in their own end, the Vikes had a chance of their own before the break. Craig Taylor hit a long shot that bounced just wide of David Ousted's net, leaving the teams level at 0-0 going into the second half. The ‘Caps made one change at halftime with goalkeeper Marco Carducci coming on to replace Ousted.
The next 45 minutes saw Whitecaps FC turn up the pressure. Hurtado got things going on 48 minutes when he intercepted a pass, only to have his strike saved by Pawlowski. The ensuing corner kick was headed hard by Jay DeMerit, straight into the hands of the Vikes ‘keeper.
Chances continued to come for the men wearing blue, with the ‘Caps speed on full display on 56 minutes. Mattocks got the ball on a quick counter and darted down the middle before finding Erik Hurtado cutting from the right. Hurtado then hit a shot inches wide of the far post.
On 62 minutes, head coach Carl Robinson made nine changes to his lineup, with only Nigel Reo-Coker staying on among the outfield players.
With a fresh group on the field, the 'Caps would not relent. Midfielder Bryce Alderson was a notable force for the new group. His cutting pass on 76 minutes sent Salgado into the box before Pawlowski made a kick save. Three minutes later, Alderson danced by his defender on the left edge of the box and sent in a dangerous cross that was cleared by the Vikes.
As time ticked to the final whistle, the ‘Caps finally found the goal they were looking for. Salgado got the ball from Alderson on the left, teased his defender, then sent in a great cross to the back post which was promptly driven home by Lewis with only seconds remaining in the match.
The late goal proved to be the winner for Whitecaps FC as they improve their record to 7W-1L-1D all-time against the Vikes.
"I'm glad it was a close game, because if we'd scored early on maybe we would have taken our foot off the gas and I wanted a good tempo game, I wanted them to do the right things," said Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson after the match. "On another day we might have scored eight or 10 goals. Obviously we need to work on our finishing a little bit more, but I'm very pleased with the way we played and built up."
The Caps return to Vancouver to train over the course of the next week before departing for Portland, Oregon on Friday where they will take part in the Rose City Invitational tournament.