ANALYSIS – The Vancouver Whitecaps reached their second consecutive Canadian Championship final on Wednesday night at Starlight Stadium, as they brushed past Canadian Premier League side Pacific FC with a 3-0 victory. The victory was dampened, however, after a brutal tackle on Canadian starlet, Ali Ahmed resulted in over 17 minutes of stoppages as he was treated and stretched off. Thankfully, Ahmed is responsive and in the hospital. But with three goals, and almost three halves of one game of football, here are our three takeaways from the Whitecaps’ win over Pacific FC.
Three Takeaways: Whitecaps Reach Voyageurs Cup Final
#1: Ali Ahmed, On The Scoreline And In Our Hearts
It is always a sad day when you see a player as promising and talented as Ali Ahmed go down like he did in the 18-minute of the match. It was just 90 seconds earlier when he had scored a wonderful volley to put the Whitecaps 2-0 up on the night before he ended up on the deck in some serious trouble.
The play was stopped for around 17 minutes as a stretcher crew came on, and trainers from both teams came to aid the 22-year-old, who seemed to have been unconscious as he hit the ground. It was a very strong challenge from Pacific FC player Cedric Toussaint that led to Ahmed crashing onto the pitch, in what looked like a desperation tackle as Ahmed was in a dangerous position in the box so soon after scoring.
After the match, head coach Vanni Sartini revealed that Ali was responsive, talking and in the hospital, which is a relief after the horrific scenes many witnessed on the night. It remains to be seen what the extent of his injury is, and whether he will be able to feature in the Canadian Championship Final against CF Montreal in early June, but all that matters now is that he has a safe and speedy recovery. All our thoughts are with him.
#2: Clinical and Efficiency Made The Difference
Pacific FC were determined to emulate their famous 2021 victory over the Whitecaps with how they started this match. From the off, it felt like the Pacific were the favourites going into this match due to the energy that they brought. But then, the Whitecaps settled into the match, and smartly allowed Pacific to throw men forward, enabling them to catch them out and score on two good breaks. After the long break due to Ahmed’s injury, Pacific FC were once again on top. You could tell how much Ahmed’s injury had affected the Whitecaps, due to Pacific dominating proceedings for the rest of the extended first half.
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) May 25, 2023
Pacific ended up outshooting Whitecaps seven to ten, but could not turn their great chances into goals. In fact, it was a similar story in the second half, as Pacific once again turned on the switch mid-way through the half, but it was the Whitecaps who taught them a lesson in being clinical by scoring a third of the match. Simon Becher finished off what was a classic and decisive counterattack after good play from Sergio Cordova and Pedro Vite allowed him to challenge Emil Gazdov’s goal. The young German goalkeeper, however, will want that one back as he was beaten easily at his near post.
Overall, while it wasn’t the greatest display from the ‘Caps, it was a ruthless and professional victory over a lively but naive Pacific side. They will hope to be as clinical in the final against CF Montreal, where they will hope to defend their title from 2022.
#3: Tristan Blackmon And Yohei Takaoka Turn Up For Whitecaps
By the end of the match, Pacific FC had 19 shots and an xG of 1.94 according to FootyStats, but could not get their goal as the Whitecaps’ defence held on firm throughout the 90. A large part of that is down to the heroics of Japanese goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka, as well as star centre-back Tristan Blackmon.
Blackmon seemed to be everywhere in that defence, winning 9/13 defensive duels and having seven clearances and recoveries. Not only was he rock solid in defence, but he also allowed the Whitecaps to build up from the back, completing 87% of his passes and putting 6 passes into the final third. He was many people’s man of the match, perhaps only superseded by Yohei Takaoka. Takaoka made three huge saves for the Whitecaps, ensuring that his side would come home with a clean sheet on the night. He now is a staple of this Whitecaps side and is arguably one of the best keepers in North America on his current form.
Whitecaps fans will be hoping that they carry this form into Saturday’s match, where they face off against Eastern Conference title challengers St. Louis CITY SC.
Update: Ali Ahmed is confirmed to have only a concussion, and has travelled back with the Whitecaps to Vancouver
Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports, Simon Becher Headshot and Emil Gazdov Headshot, of May 24, 2023.
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