In the second leg of their playoff semifinal series, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1W-1L-1D) will look to advance to the USSF D-2 Pro League championship final series when they host Puerto Rico Islanders (1W-1L-1D) at Swangard Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
After claiming a very creditable 0-0 draw in Thursday’s first leg in the Caribbean, Teitur Thordarson’s side return home this weekend with the aim of making the last stage of the postseason for a third straight year.
Sunday’s second leg between Whitecaps FC and Puerto Rico Islanders at Swangard kicks off at 4 p.m. PT. Whitecaps individual match tickets start at $21.50, plus applicable service charges, and are available at all Ticketmaster Ticket Centres, online at ticketmaster.ca, and by phone at 604.280.4400 or 1.800.663.9311. CLICK HERE for more information on Whitecaps FC individual match tickets.
Short of claiming a lead from the first leg, the ‘Caps accomplished much of what they wanted to do in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, on Thursday. Though the goalless aggregate scoreline keeps the series well poised, claiming home advantage may prove pivotal when you consider there is a distance of 6,097 kilometers (3,789 miles) between Vancouver and Puerto Rico.
For ‘Caps youngster Philippe Davies, the need to perform with purpose will be required for his side to succeed this weekend. «I think we will need to play with tempo and use the flanks to put them under pressure,» the Longueuil, Quebec, native told whitecapsfc.com. «It’s a 90-minute game, so we don’t necessarily need to attack at every single instance. We can take the initiative by keeping possession and taking our opportunities when we create them.»
Whitecaps FC have been boosted by the news that right fullback Wes Knight will return to training on Saturday after missing the last two playoff games with a shoulder injury.
Colin Clarke’s side will be disappointed not to have an advantage of some kind for the second leg. In the last round, La Tropa Naranja (The Orange Troop) used a 2-0 home win to see themselves past Rochester Rhinos with a 3-2 aggregate victory. Now, the reigning Caribbean club champions will have to achieve something they have never done before, in order to win this semifinal series. That is earn a victory at Swangard.
Though many will give the edge to the ‘Caps at this point of the series, Thordarson is mindful of the Islanders’ abilities to cause an upset. «Puerto Rico are extremely dangerous on the counter-attack and will fancy playing that way at Swangard,» Thordarson said. «On Sunday, I want us to have the initiative and create more chances. We controlled the game on Thursday, but did not have the initiative, as I wanted us to have. We will want to do that in the next game and balance it with good defending.»
Sunday’s second leg is the 17th all-time meeting between Whitecaps FC and Puerto Rico, dating back to the 2005 United Soccer Leagues First Division (USL-1) season. In that time, Vancouver have recorded seven wins, two defeats, and seven draws. This includes an undefeated home record of five wins and three draws versus the Caribbean outfit. Whitecaps FC fans are sure to remember two recent encounters versus the Islanders at Swangard Stadium. On Thanksgiving Sunday 2008, Vancouver defeated Puerto Rico 2-1 to win the first USL-1 Championship Final to be contested between two clubs from outside of the United States. Then last season, the ‘Caps defeated the Islanders 4-2 in a match that took over four hours to complete after severe thunderstorms delayed the July 25 game for over two hours.
USSF D-2 PLAYOFF FORMAT
Vancouver’s semifinal playoff series with Puerto Rico is being contested as a two-match, aggregate score series. If the aggregate score is tied at the conclusion of the second leg, then two 15-minute extra-time periods will be played to determine the series winner. If both sides remain tied at the end of extra time, then the series will be decided using a penalty shootout. *Unlike European club competitions or the CONCACAF Champions League, the ‘Away Goals’ rule is NOT in effect as a tiebreaker in the USSF D-2 playoffs*.
Should Whitecaps FC advance to the USSF D-2 championship final series, they will face the winner of the Carolina RailHawks (second seed) versus Montreal Impact (sixth seed) semifinal series, with the Impact leading 1-0 on aggregate after Thursday’s first leg at Montreal’s Stade Saputo. Sunday’s second leg will take place at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina, at 3 p.m. PT.
The USSF D-2 championship final series will be played over two weekends. The first leg of the final is set for the weekend of October 23 & 24, while the second leg will take place during the weekend of October 30 & 31.