VANCOUVER, B.C. – A goal from teenage sensation Alphonso Davies five minutes in set the Vancouver Whitecaps on their way to a first CONCACAF Champions League semifinal appearance after winning their quarterfinal match up against the New York Red Bulls at BC Place on Wednesday evening.
Substitute Fredy Montero added a second 14 minutes from time with his first touch of the game to secure a 2-0 win on the night and a 3-1 aggregate victory, setting up a meeting with Mexican side Tigres in a couple weeks time.
There were several flashes of what this promising Vancouver attack could provide this season, but head coach Carl Robinson was also keen to highlight a strong defensive outing and hailed the all-around team performance in getting the job done.
"There were a lot of very exciting performances," Robinson told reporters after the match. "I thought we thoroughly deserved the victory. Every player put in a massive shift. Over two legs we probably deserved to go through. Individually some outstanding performances."
Davies was certainly one of those players. The 16-year-old showed a cool head and calmness in the box to take his time and find space to fire home the opener from close range. It was just one of a number of occasions where Davies showed wisdom beyond his years.
Robinson praised the maturity Davies brings to the pitch and his "understanding of the game for someone so young," describing his desire to score goals and attack as "phenomenal."
Montero was also impressed with what he saw of Davies and is excited by the prospect of playing together this season.
"He's good, he has a lot of quality," Montero said of what he sees from Davies. "He's young. We need to take it easy with him. He's going to get more experience in the games and he just needs to keep doing what he's doing. He's working hard in every single training and you can see in 90 minutes today how hard he was running to the back and to the front to defend the team."
It was the first time Montero's played alongside the winger in a competitive match and although their time on the pitch together was limited to only 23 minutes, the pair showed an excellent understanding immediately. With the dangerous Kekuta Manneh also in the mix, Vancouver's attack will certainly be one to watch this season.
"It's growing," was Montero's take on the initial attacking chemistry. "We're starting to know each other better and better. We know sometimes the game turns difficult because we need to drop back a little bit but this team has a lot of speed. When we counterattack, it's really dangerous."
It was the perfect start to Montero's Vancouver career, and the stuff dreams are made of when moving to a new club, especially with a top pedigree.
"I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to score with my first touch," Montero said. "It's always good to [score right away]. It takes some pressure of your shoulders. Everyone was expecting the boot from me."
Robinson was naturally delighted not only by Montero breaking his duck immediately, but by his link up play and work rate when he's still finding his match fitness, and believes it's a great sign for the season to come.
"He scored with his first touch," Robinson said. "He's disappointed in there because the young kid set him up for a sitter and he just lost his feet, he lost his balance. He could have had two goals but that's what natural goalscorers do. It's nice to get him up to speed."