VANCOUVER: Call it a thriller at Thunderbird.
This game had just about everything: big saves at both ends, an own goal, and a front flip throw-in that led to a late equalizer. In the end, the highly-entertaining USL fixture ended in a 2-2 draw between Whitecaps FC 2 (1W-4L-3D) and Oklahoma City Energy FC on Sunday afternoon at UBC Thunderbird Stadium.
OKC scored early and late, but WFC2 head coach Alan Koch will surely be encouraged by what he saw in between. It was a strong performance from the home side, who are now undefeated in three home matches to start the season.
Nine Canadians started for WFC2 on Sunday, including goalscorer Chris Serban. It was also a young side that featured five teenagers and just two first-team players: goalkeeper Marco Carducci and midfielder Ben McKendry – both whom had strong showings.
The young ‘Caps looked bright coming out of the gates, but surrendered an early goal against the run of play. In the ninth minute, the Energy caught WFC2 on the counter and opened the scoring when Kyle Greig tapped in a low Casey Townsend cross at the back post.
To their credit, WFC2 conjured an immediate response.
After nearly leveling the score through a second-phase Billy Schuler strike, the ‘Caps got their equalizer in the 13th minute. Officially, it was an OKC own goal, as McKendry’s low cross into the box bounced off a defender into the back of the net.
Those would be the only goals in the first half, but it wasn’t for a lack of opportunities.
Carducci came up with three big saves, including a diving stop off a Greig header in the 16th minute. At the other end, WFC2 left back Jordan Haynes blasted a strike off the post in the 37th minute after a beautiful build-up in midfield. McKendry also came close, heading a Tyler Rosenlund cross inches wide.
McKendry, who was playing as an attacking midfielder as opposed to his customary holding role, was very involved in this one. Less than a minute into the second half, the Vancouver native made a good run through the middle and blasted a strike labeled for the top corner but OKC goalkeeper Evan Newton denied him with a diving save.
The ‘Caps kept coming though and took their first lead of the match at the hour-mark. McKendry was involved again, releasing a lively Sahil Sandhu down the right. An OKC defender then cleared Sandhu’s cross into the path of Serban, who smashed it home first time.
WFC2 had a number of chances to extend their lead, but simply couldn’t beat Newton. And they were forced to settle for a draw after OKC’s Michael Thomas equalized in the 87th minute with a header off a long, front flip throw-in.
Sunday’s match was the first of three straight at home for WFC2. They’re back at UBC Thunderbird Stadium a week from today to host Real Monarchs SLC, the USL affiliate of Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake.
9′ – OKC – Kyle Greig (Casey Townsend)
13′ – OKC – Own Goal
60′ – WFC2 – Chris Serban
87′ – OKC – Michael Thomas (Michael Harris)
18′ – WFC2 – Mitch Piraux
25′ – OKC – Michael Byskov
90′ + 3 – OKC – Reed McKenna
Shots: WFC2 18 – OKC 13
Saves: WFC2 5 – OKC 6
Corners: WFC 3 – OKC 12
Whitecaps FC 2
24.Marco Carducci; 55.Chris Serban, 41.Jackson Farmer, 54.Craig Nitti, 42.Jordan Haynes; 45.Tyler Rosenlund (46.Brett Levis 77′), 37.Mitch Piraux; 50.Sahil Sandhu (49.Mackenzie Pridham 87′), 30.Ben McKendry, 47.Jovan Blagojevic (48.Victor Blasco 60′); 51.Billy Schuler (34.Caleb Clarke 60′)
39.Spencer Richey, 56.Ian Christianson
Oklahoma City Energy FC
1.Evan Newton; 26.Coady Andrews, 8.Michael Thomas, 2.Jacob VanCompernolle, 3.Peabo Doue (19.Michael Harris 76′); 5.Gareth Evans, 25.Michael Byskov (17.Peter Toth 73′), 22.Kyle Greig; 7.Sebastian Dalgaard (15.Reed McKenna 67′), 9.Danni Konig, 11.Casey Townsend (18.Omar Daley 67′)
24.Ray Clark, 4.Cyprian Hedrick