Brek Shea's early goal, injury exit put wrench in Whitecaps' CCL loss

Brek Shea - Looks down while dribbling - Vancouver Whitecaps

VANCOUVER, B.C. - It's unlikely that Brek Shea has had a more impactful and emotional rollercoaster opening to a match than what played out in the first few minutes of Vancouver’s CONCACAF Champions League semifinal defeat to Tigres on Wednesday night.

In the third minute of Wednesday’s match, Shea found the back of the net, bringing the Whitecaps to a 2-1 aggregate deficit. Two minutes later, that high was replaced by difficult low, as he lay clutching his knee on the BC Place turf before being subbed out due to the injury.

Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson had targeted an early goal. Shea got it for him, but his injury threw Robinson’s game plan out the window, forcing him to insert 16-year-old Alphonso Davies into the biggest game of his young career.

Vancouver ended up conceding two late goals to fall 2-1 in Leg 2 and drop the series 4-1 on aggregate.

"[It impacted it] lots, lots," Robinson said of Shea's injury. "As a manager and as a coach, you sometimes are hampered by those things.

"I think you saw today that we've got a wonderful talent on our hands with Alphonso Davies but he was tired and he looked that playing against a top right back. Unfortunate, but we wanted to play with two wide players to try and exploit certain areas of the field."

It's hard to say how much different, if at all, the game would have progressed if Shea had been able to stay on the pitch. He caused problems for Tigres in the first leg in Mexico last month, but Whitecaps striker Fredy Montero didn't feel the team can use his early exit as an excuse for losing the series.

"I don’t think it changed a lot," Montero told reporters. "We know what kind of job he can do for the team, and Fonzie [Davies] came and he tried to do the same. I think the team is ready to play the same way, no matter what player we have on the field."

Shea's injury was just the latest in a run of ailments that have affected the Whitecaps attacking core. Offseason signing Yordy Reyna is out until the summer after suffering a foot injury that required surgery in preseason, while forward Erik Hurtado left Saturday’s win against LA on with a foot contusion that will keep him out for several weeks.

Robinson said Shea's injury "doesn’t look good" and he expects him to be out multiple weeks.

“Unfortunately it’s part of the game, these injuries,” said Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted. “It leaves other guys in there to take their chance. We’ve said all along we believe we have a strong squad and a strong team. Guys on the outside that are coming in have to prove that."

One player looking to do that will be striker Kyle Greig. The target man came on as a late sub against Tigres and is now the only healthy striker on the 'Caps outside of Montero, perhaps giving the former Whitecaps 2 player a chance to shine at Real Salt Lake on Saturday (9:30 pm ET; TSN4, TSN 5 in Canada | MLS LIVE in the US).

"It was just unfortunate," Greig said of Shea's injury. "It was a great start by him and getting the early goal got the crowd behind us, but soccer is a weird thing – one minute you can be scoring a goal, getting the momentum going and the next you’re picking up an injury.

"It’s unfortunate, but something that we now have to come together as a team because we’re picking up a few injuries. It’ll be an opportunity for some other guys to pick up a few minutes."