KANSAS CITY, Kan. – There are times when Vancouver Whitecaps manager Carl Robinson looks at Alphonso Davies and sees a 15-year-old kid – a big, strong kid, but a kid nonetheless – just starting to find his way in professional soccer.
On Tuesday night, Robinson watched the Homegrown midfielder step up and drive the Whitecaps into the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League for the first time.
“He's a young talent,” Robinson told reporters after Davies scored his first goal with the senior side to ice the Whitecaps' 2-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City. “He's one of many young talents we have in our program, and I've included him in the squad this year, over the last few months, because he deserves his chance.
“We as a club, an organization, when we think you're ready to make that step up, to be involved, then we'll give you that chance, and he showed today – he did a lot of good things. He also did a lot of things where he was a little bit naive in certain decision making, but you get senior players who make wrong decisions at times. He should be very proud of his performance.”
Davies also helped the Whitecaps take a 1-0 lead in the 41st minute – shortly after the clubs returned from a two-hour lightning delay 35 minutes into the match – with an assist on Erik Hurtado's goal.
Sporting – needing to win to stave off elimination – equalized through Diego Rubio in the 55th and pressed hard for a match-winner late, only to see Davies make the last two matches of the group stage moot with a strike in the third minute of stoppage time.
“It’s a great, great opportunity for us as a club,” Davies said in a statement issued by the Whitecaps. “We’re making history getting to the quarterfinals. It was a fantastic experience for me. I’m happy I was able to help the club take that step forward.”
For a side currently sitting one spot outside the Western Conference postseason picture with five matches left in the regular season, clinching a CCL quarterfinal bid early is no small thing.
“We've got a lot of work to do to get into the MLS playoffs,” Robinson said. “We're below this 'red line' that everyone keeps talking about, and we are underdogs. We've got a massive game [at Seattle] on Saturday. Our season is on Saturday.”