By Joshua Clipperton
THE CANADIAN PRESS
After a frustrating seven days, the Vancouver Whitecaps know staying patient could go a long way in determining their future in this season’s Amway Canadian Championship.
The Major League Soccer club visits FC Edmonton on Wednesday in the second leg of its two-game, total-goals national semifinal after the teams drew 1-1 at B.C. Place Stadium in last week’s opener.
Edmonton, which plays in the second-tier NASL, owns a valuable away goal after scoring early off a Gershon Koffie miscue before the Vancouver midfielder made amends with a late equalizer.
The Whitecaps need to score at least once at Clarke Field in the second leg to have any chance of advancing, but they also understand there’s no need to panic.
“We just have to play a normal game _ not necessarily win in the first five or six minutes,” said Vancouver assistant coach Martyn Pert. “Just try and play a normal game and take advantage of opportunities when they come.”
Neither team has ever hoisted the Voyageurs Cup and the winner of the tie will face the Montreal Impact in the national final with a spot in the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League on the line. A 0-0 draw on Wednesday would see Edmonton through to its first final, while a 1-1 scoreline through 90 minutes means extra time and possibly penalty kicks.
“I think Wednesday’s match is an exciting opportunity for everyone at the club,” Edmonton head coach Colin Miller told the team’s official website. “The combination of the atmosphere in the stadium, the crowd and being televised nationally are all incentives for our players to produce a strong result. We’re at the front at the moment, we just need to remain as positive as we were at B.C. Place.”
But Vancouver did come in waves at times in the second half of the first leg, with Edmonton goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel making a number of big stops to go along with a couple egregious Vancouver misses.
“It was unlucky to go down 1-0 at home, but I think the reaction of the team was good in the second half,” said Whitecaps ‘keeper Paolo Tornaghi. “There was only really one team on the field.”
A key to Vancouver success on Wednesday could be staying calm if Edmonton resorts to some of the time-wasting tactics its players employed in an attempt to kill off the first leg when the visitors were clinging to a 1-0 lead.
“They played very smart, never let us get in a rhythm,” said Whitecaps defender Christian Dean. “They went down every 10 minutes, and honestly that’s a smart team.
“Last week I got pretty upset a couple times, not going to lie. We’ve worked on it, we’ve talked about it, watched video and I think we’re ready this week.”
Vancouver has actually been better away from home so far in MLS this season with a 3-1-1 mark compared to 3-1-3 record at B.C. Place, including Saturday’s disappointing 2-0 loss to the rival Seattle Sounders.
For the Whitecaps, who are expected to go with a young lineup similar to the one that looked nervous early in the first leg, the road map to advancing past Edmonton is simple.
“Our style as a team is to dominate the other team with possession,” said Tornaghi. “From the first minute to the 90th you have to be focused.”