The Vancouver Whitecaps exorcised the demons of 2021 as they defeated Pacific FC by a score of 3-0, ending the hopes of the final CPL club in the Canadian Championship.
The Ferryside Derby win sets up a final at B.C. Place against CF Montréal for the Voyageurs Cup on June 7.
Vanni Sartini made several changes to his lineup amidst a heavy May schedule. The three Canadians in the starting XI were Ryan Raposo, Ali Ahmed and Russell Teibert.
Pacific came out of the gates pushing hard and high, working the Whitecaps’ defenders and trying to force them to cough up the ball.
But the visiting side quickly settled into the match after Brian White hit a shot into the ground to get beyond Emil Gazdov only for it to bounce off the crossbar.
The dominant midfield of Vancouver was given licence to move the ball freely throughout their ranks.
And it paid off on the counter. Schöpf brought the ball quickly forward and away from a Pacific opportunity. He found Julian Gressel on the right, who completed the quick counter, giving the Whitecaps the lead in the 14th minute.
“Sergio [Córdova] actually makes a great run to free me up,” Gressel said. “So, it’s his goal as well, where he makes a great run across to give me the chance to get space.”
It took only three minutes more for Vancouver to add another. A worked set piece on the throw-in went off the head of Tristan Blackmon towards the far end of the 6-yard box. Ahmed hit it off the volley for the two-goal lead.
But the match quickly turned dark for Vancouver as Cédric Toussaint landed a heavy tackle on Ahmed in the 18-yard box. The left-back went over the Pacific player and landed awkwardly.
Over 15 minutes passed as the paramedics were called to the pitch to work on the young player.
Sartini called it a “scary moment.”
“When [Ahmed] left the field, he was awake at least,” the head coach said. “He was talking. He was responsive. He was okay. But it was very, very scary. And, you know…the most important thing is that, hopefully, he’s going to be okay, and that he’s going to be back home soon.”
As play resumed, the noise of Starlight Stadium was a fraction of what it had been. A new sombre atmosphere descended over the pitch and stands.
But the match did continue.
The Whitecaps, understandably shaken at this point, pulled back, which gave Pacific a chance to gain the momentum of the match. However, the home side was not able to take any advantage of the situation, and the half ended with Vancouver up by two.
Positive news about Ahmed during the break helped the Whitecaps get back into the match for the second half. Vancouver held their lead while Pacific brought on new attackers to try and force an advantage.
Yet, there was nothing the home side could muster. Pacific looked good in their possession, but they were only able to challenge Takaoka from distance.
The Whitecaps added a third from super-sub Simon Becher in the 78th minute, which all but sealed their appearance in the final.
The win leaves Vancouver in the Canadian Championship final and set to play CF Montréal as they look for back-to-back cup wins, something the Whitecaps have never done.
NOTE: Due to sound issues in the post-match press conference, quotes are few. Apologies for the inconvenience.