EDMONTON: There’s never a dull moment in the Amway Canadian Championship.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC moved one step closer to their first-ever Voyageurs Cup on Wednesday night, defeating FC Edmonton 2-1 in a thrilling second leg semifinal at Clarke Field.
Pedro Morales scored early and red-hot FC Edmonton striker Tomi Ameobi equalized late, both from the penalty spot, which set up yet another dramatic conclusion in a competition that never seems to disappoint.
And second-half sub Matias Laba played the role of hero, scoring a stoppage-time winner to seal a 3-2 aggregate win for Vancouver – and as a result, a berth in the championship final with longtime rival and defending Canadian champion Montreal Impact.
Laba’s winner, which came seven minutes into stoppage time, was his first goal in a Whitecaps FC uniform. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.
After a 1-1 draw in last week’s first leg at BC Place, Carl Robinson inserted some firepower into his lineup forWednesday’s decisive second leg with Morales, Cristian Techera, Kendall Waston, and Russell Teibert drawing into the starting XI.
Robinson’s side came into the game knowing they’d have to score at least one goal to advance. And it didn’t take them long.
The ‘Caps had Edmonton on their heels right from the opening whistle, earning four corners in the first four minutes. And then in the ninth minute, Morales calmly put Whitecaps FC ahead from the penalty spot after Techera was clipped in the box by Eddies goalkeeper Matt VanOekel.
FC Edmonton nearly equalized just three minutes later through Ameobi, who has now scored in seven straight games. Lance Laing found Ameobi in the box with a dangerous cross, but the English striker misfired from close range.
Aside from a late free kick from Techera, who looked particularly lively for the visitors, neither side really threatened again in the first half. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Edmonton brought on attacking midfielder Daryl Fordyce at halftime. And Fordyce just about got the Eddies their equalizer in the 57th minute, but volleyed a Laing cross wide at the back post.
Meanwhile, Techera continued to do his thing in the attacking third. The 5-foot-2 Uruguayan was all over the pitch. He frequented both flanks and created Vancouver’s best chances before leaving the match in the 79th minute for Laba.
For most of the match, it looked like Morales’ first-half tally would be all Vancouver needed. But Edmonton didn’t go away and in the first minute of stoppage time, they were rewarded with a penalty of their own after Waston was whistled for a foul in the box. Ameobi slotted it home to draw the aggregate score level, but that didn’t last long.
With extra time looming, the ‘Caps won a free kick in Eddies territory. The initial ball was cleared, but Tim Parker kept it alive and Laba turned and fired from a tight angle, beating VanOekel and sending Vancouver back to the Amway Canadian Championship final.
This year, the two-leg final will be held in August to avoid scheduling conflicts with the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Montreal will host the first leg on August 12, with the second leg set for August 26 at BC Place.
The ‘Caps have never won the Voyageurs Cup. Prior to last season, when Whitecaps FC suffered a heartbreaking semifinal loss to Toronto FC in penalties, they had finished as runners-up in five straight years – including a loss to Montreal on away goals in the 2013 final.
Referee: Silviu Petrescu
9′ – VAN – Pedro Morales (Penalty kick)
90′ + 2 – EDM – Tomi Ameobi (Penalty kick)
90′ + 7 – VAN – Matias Laba (Tim Parker)
8′ – EDM – Matt VanOekel
19′ – VAN – Nicolas Mezquida
38′ – EDM – Tomas Granitto
59′ – VAN – Darren Mattocks
64′ – EDM – Cristian Raudales
72′ – VAN – Ethen Sampson
73′ – VAN – Christian Dean
90′ + 6 – EDM – Eddie Edward
Shots: Edmonton 7 – Vancouver 9
Shots on Goal: Edmonton 4 – Vancouver 4
Fouls: Edmonton 14 – Vancouver 18
Offsides: Edmonton 0 – Vancouver 2
Corners: Edmonton 5 – Vancouver 7
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
70.Paolo Tornaghi; 27.Ethen Sampson (33.Steven Beitashour 72′), 4.Kendall Waston, 26.Tim Parker, 22.Christian Dean; 28.Gershon Koffie, 31.Russell Teibert; 9.Nicolás Mezquida (23.Kekuta Manneh 66′), 77.Pedro Morales, 13.Cristian Techera (15.Matías Laba 79′); 11.Darren Mattocks
Substitutes not used
1.David Ousted, 7.Mauro Rosales, 29.Octavio Rivero, 38.Kianz Froese
1.Matt VanOekel; 3.Eddie Edward, 5.Albert Watson, 15.Mallan Roberts, 2.Allan Zebie (13.Frank Jonke 88′); 7.Cristian Raudales, 10.Tomas Granitto (16.Daryl Fordyce 46′); 14.Sainey Nyassi (19.Hanson Boakai 75′), 8.Ritchie Jones, 17.Lance Laing; 18.Tomi Ameobi
Substitutes not used
23.John Smits, 12.Kareem Moses, 20.Chad Burt, 22.Michael Nonni