Vancouver Whitecaps vs. FC Edmonton
BC Place, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Amway Canadian Championship semifinals, first leg
May 13, 10 pm ET
The Vancouver Whitecaps and the North American Soccer League’s FC Edmonton will get their Amway Canadian Championship semifinal series off to a belated start on Wednesday, when they play the first leg of the series at BC Place.
The series was initially scheduled to start last Wednesday in Edmonton, but the game was postponed due to a snowstorm rendering the Clarke Stadium field unplayable. FC Edmonton will now host the second leg of the series next Wednesday, May 20th, with the winner of the series advancing to the Canadian Championship final against either Toronto FC or the Montreal Impact.
Edmonton has already won one series in the Canadian Championship, beating fellow NASL club the Ottawa Fury 6-2 on aggregate in the preliminary round to advance to the semifinal series. Neither Vancouver nor Edmonton have won the Voyageurs Cup title, with the Whitecaps going 0-for-7 in the tournament and Edmonton never advancing past the semifinal stage in four tries.
Vancouver qualified for the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League by finishing with the most points of Canada’s three Major League Soccer teams in the 2014 MLS season. The ‘Caps will look to qualify for the 2016-17 CCL with a victory in the Canadian Championship, a trophy that’s eluded them since the tournament began in 2008.
Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson is expected to field a young squad in Wednesday’s first leg, the second match in a stretch of five games in 14 days that will see the ‘Caps face Cascadia rival Seattle on Saturday, play Edmonton in the second leg next on May 20th and travel to Colorado for a date with the Rapids on May 23rd.
Last year, the Whitecaps started four teenagers in the first leg and three in the second of their semifinal series against Toronto FC, falling to the Reds on penalty kicks despite an eye-opening performance from goalkeeper Marco Carducci.
A younger lineup this year could mean minutes for Carducci, US Under-23 international Christian Dean, first-round SuperDraft pick Tim Parker and Homegrown players Marco Bustos, Kianz Froese and Ben McKendry.
This is the third series meeting between the clubs; Vancouver beat Edmonton 5-1 on aggregate in 2012 and 5-2 on aggregate in 2013, each time winning the first leg at Commonwealth Stadium.
Vancouver lost in the Canadian Championship final in 2011, 2012 and 2013 before playing the younger squad and losing in the semifinals last year.
FC Edmonton have never beaten an MLS team over two legs (0-4), although they were minutes away from beating Montreal in last year's Canadian Championship semifinals.
The Opponent – What you need to know about FC Edmonton
Coach: Colin Miller (Canada)
Position: 9th in 11-team NASL (1-2-2; 5 pts, 9 GF/12 GA)
Best Canadian Championship finish: Semifinals (2011-14)
How they got here: Beat Ottawa Fury 6-2 on aggregate (3-1 away, 3-1 home) in preliminary round
The Eddies had their five-game unbeaten streak across all competitions snapped on Sunday, when they fell 4-2 in NASL action at the New York Cosmos. They went 8-5-5 in the NASL's fall 2014 season to place third, their best finish since debuting in 2011, but did not qualify for the postseason.
Edmonton's roster includes former MLSers Edson Edward, Sainey Nyassi and Johann Smith, but it's Northern Irish forward Daryl Fordyce who's their main goal threat, having totaled 13 NASL goals over the last two seasons to lead the team in that stretch. Fordyce and Tomi Ameobi, the brother of Premier League regulars Shola and Sammy, scored in each leg of the preliminary round, with Nyassi scoring in the second leg.
Edmonton will be without key defender and captain Albert Watson on Wednesday due to injury.
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One to watch: Lance Laing – The 27-year-old Jamaican midfielder scored seven goals in 27 games last year and has struck twice in the first five league games in 2015, also scoring in the first leg in Ottawa. Watch for his left foot on set pieces. Not convinced? Check out this free kick he scored against Minnesota just over a week ago.
X-Factor: Hanson Boakai – We don't actually know if he's going to play, but Boakai – who started the year in Colin Miller's doghouse but came off the bench in the second leg against Ottawa – is a treat to watch. The 18-year-old, already in his third professional season, started all four Edmonton games in the tournament last year and was one of the best players on the field, scoring once against Ottawa and assisting two of Edmonton's four goals against Montreal. "Canadian Messi" might be a stretch, but if he gets in the game, he could be a factor.