With the Major League Soccer season already four weeks in, Vancouver's players came out with something to prove on Tuesday afternoon. They wanted to be at BC Place on Saturday, playing against Colorado Rapids SC, but instead they got FC Edmonton at Thunderbird Stadium.
For the Rabbits, this was their last chance to test themselves before the North American Soccer League season starts against Tampa Bay, 11 days from now. Heading into the match, they held a 3-1-0 record this preseason, and an impressive 11-2 goal differential. Of course, that was against collegiate opposition.
The match was seen by a 106-strong crowd, which is respectable for a midweek afternoon friendly that received little fanfare, and even less advertisement.
Sebastián Fernández, currently on loan to Vancouver from Uruguayan side Boston River, opened the scoring in the 4th minute, after Erik Hurtado intercepted a pass from Edmonton goalkeeper John Smits. Lance Parker, Edmonton's most capped active player, was unable to take part due to a minor injury he sustained while training on Monday.
It has been said that in football, you are at your most vulnerable immediately after you have scored a goal, and although the Rabbits rebuttal was not immediate, it was certainly swift. Hanson Boakai drove towards the left byline, dragging Vancouver's defenders with him, and picked out recent signing Tomi Ameobi, who scored his third goal for the club.
Where Edmonton had been swift, Vancouver were immediate. Less than a minute after Ameobi had scored the equaliser, Kekuta Manneh had restored Vancouver's lead, and by the 17th minute, Erik Hurtado had made it 3-1 for the Whitecaps.
As they had against New York and Houston, Vancouver wore blue, and the squad they put out would probably be able to hold their own on Saturday against the Rapids.
Paolo Tornaghi started in goal, with a backline that consisted of Ethen Sampson, Carlyle Mitchell, Johnny Leverón, and Christian Dean; a midfield of Bryce Alderson, Mitch Piraux, Erik Hurtado, and Nicolás Mezquida, with Kekuta Manneh and Sebastián Fernández up front. Leverón wore the captain's armband in place of Jay DeMerit.
Edmonton began with John Sits in goal, a backline of Mike Banner, Albert Watson, Kareem Moses, and Michael Nonni; a midfield of Hanson Boakai, Ritchie Jones, Milton Blanco, and Daryl Fordyce; while Frank Jonke, and Tomi Ameobi were the forwards.
Edmonton were missing the aforementioned Parker, Eddie Edward, Lance Laing, and Neil Hlavaty, which necessitated a bit of a rearrangement with Banner moving to left back, Fordyce to right midfield, while Nonni came on as a right back, and Boakai at left midfield.
After the rabbits won a corner kick in the 26th minute, Daryl Fordyce found Tomi Ameobi who headed in his second goal of the match, and fourth goal of the preseason. Not bad for a man who's only played around 230 minutes.
Carlyle Mitchell was withdrawn after 33 minutes due to an injury, but it gave Sam Adekugbe a chance to enter the match. Christian Dean moved across the field to cover for Mitchell, while Adekugbe took up his preferred spot on the left.
As the halftime whistle approached, Manneh was the beneficiary of some excellent work by Nicolás Mezquida, and a nice flick by Fernández, as his powerful shot restored Vancouver's two goal advantage.
For the second half, Vancouver's Nicholas Prasad came on for Sampson and Marco Bustos replaced Fernández, while Edmonton's Tyson Farago picked up the gloves from Smits.
In the 67th minute, Boakai was substituted for Horace James, with Kianze Froese replacing Manneh a minute later. In the 81st minute, Sadi Jalali and Edem Mortotsi came on for Ameobi and Jones, respectively, while Marko Aleksic replaced Moses in the 83rd.
The second half was a more balanced affair, but by then, Vancouver already held a two goal lead. Both sides had there chances, with Farago making a difficult save off a dangerous dead ball situation.
"They were four very poor goals to give away for our standard," said Edmonton manager Colin Miller after the match. "We improved defensively in the second half, but it was a talented, young Whitecaps group that we played against today. I think it was a good reality check for the players."
"It was nice to see the energy and enthusiasm from a lot of young players out there," said Vancouver assistant coach Gordon Forrest, who took charge of the match as Carl Robinson watched from the stands. "We're trying to think about the playing style from a club perspective: keeping possession, playing quick, attacking quickly, and when we don't have the ball working really hard to get it back. I think a lot of that was shown from the players out there, so we're very happy with the performance."
Vancouver will host Colorado at BC Place on March 5th at 3:30 PM PST, while Edmonton returns home to face Tampa Bay at Clarke Stadium on March 12th at 5:30 PM MST. Click here to open our fullscreen slideshow.