There are bogey teams. No doubt about that. But have you ever heard of a bogey league? For Vancouver Whitecaps fans, it’s a narrative that is painfully true when referring to the Canadian Premier League. Having never beaten a CPL side in the Canadian Championship, Wednesday’s clash with the Whitecaps and Winnipeg’s Valour FC didn’t have just a typical MLS vs CPL feel. Sitting with an 0-2 record all time, highlighted by last August’s 4-3 defeat at the hands of BC rival Pacific FC (the first-ever ferry-side derby), a lot of nerves were in the air.
And why shouldn’t there be? Vancouver sits at the bottom of the MLS Western Conference, just as they were in their two prior CPL encounters. The Canadian Championship has never been kind to Vancouver and having stumbled out of the gates this MLS season, an upset wasn’t out of the picture at BC Place.
For the hosts, Vanni Sartini stuck with a 4-2-2-2, with an option to flex into a 3-4-2-1, just like how they lined up in Sunday’s 1-0 win over Toronto FC. Cody Cropper made his first professional start with the club, following an injury to Thomas Hasal’s finger on Sunday. The back four consisted of Jake Nerwinski, Ranko Veselinovic, Florian Jungwirth and Marcus Godinho. The Canadian midfield duo of Russel Teibert and Michael Baldisimo filled in between Ryan Raposo and Ryan Gauld as the attacking midfielders. Deiber Caicedo and Lucas Cavallini completed the starting 11 upfront.
Meanwhile, on the Valour bench, Phillip Dos Santos made his return to BC Place, having been the assistant coach for two and a half seasons previously before his role in Winnipeg. Rayane Yesli gets his first start for the club between the sticks. Brett Levis also made his return to BC Place, having made 24 appearances for the Whitecaps’ first team between 2016 and 2019. Rocco Romeo, Stefan Cebara, Federico Pena and Levis made up the defence. Diego Gutierrez, Daryl Gutierrez, Sean Rea and William Akio completed the midfield. Daryl Fordyce, Alessandro Riggi and Moses Dyer rounded out the squad.
football friends#ForValour | #CanPL | @KonicaMinoltaCA pic.twitter.com/lrr4emTX3p
— Valour FC (@ValourFootball) May 12, 2022
Despite Vancouver controlling the possession in a rather dominant fashion, Valour kept them away. At least, for the opening 19 minutes. Ryan Gauld and Raposo linked up down the left-hand side before a great turn for Raposo opened up a shot. His effort forced Yesli to make a diving stop, but could only parry the ball straight to the feet of Teibert. From inside the six-yard box, Teibert potted his first-ever Canadian Championship goal and rewarded Vancouver for their efforts thus far.
GOAL 🏔@WhitecapsFC get on the board first vs. @ValourFootball as Russell Teibert finishes off a lovely bit of interplay in this #CanChamp clash 🍁🏆#VWFC | #CanPL | 🔴 https://t.co/7JFAUhgjL6 pic.twitter.com/T8aT3l9rPp
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) May 12, 2022
Less than two minutes later, they got their reward… again. A slick-through ball by Gauld sent Caicedo through on goal. Selflessly, he squared it across the face of the goal to a wide-open Raposo. He buried the chance and doubled Vancouver’s lead.
A handful of more chances for Vancouver, as well as an injury to Baldisimo, forced Sebastian Berhalter to enter the match in the 35-minute. But the first 45 was all Vancouver needed. And it showed. Up 2-0 and in full control at the break.
It was a slower-paced and more balanced second half, with limited clear-cut chances for either side. Vancouver broke their CPL curse and finally got one over the top domestic Canadian flight. Their focus shifts to Saturday’s home clash with the San Jose Earthquakes, who sit just two points and three places above them in the MLS Western Conference. Including this performance, Sartini’s “flexible” four at the back has looked a lot more in-tune with each other than the three at the back from earlier this season. The team will move on to the Canadian Championship to face Cavalry FC.
The underdog Valour FC side held their own, mustering a handful of chances of their own in a hostile Vancouver environment. Yesli made his first professional start, with a number of difficult saves to go along with it. The CPL side returns home on Sunday for a matinee clash with York United.