Fittingly, after having an up and down first season in the USL, Whitecaps FC2 fell 3-2 to the visiting Austin Aztecs in a roller coaster of a game closing out the year. WFC2 showed their youthful exuberance and skill for the majority of the game as Brett Levis — in his first start since an early July ankle injury — scored two second-half goals to stake the home side a 2-0 lead. With the game seeming comfortably in control, the young ‘Caps inexperience was exposed almost suddenly. The Aztecs scored three times in the last 30 minutes to spoil Vancouver’s year-end party.
Eager to head into the off season on a high note, WFC2 opened the game largely on their front foot. After dominating possession and the majority of chances, Caleb Clarke nearly grabbed the lead for the home side in the 35th minute. Tyler Rosenlund picked off a pass from the Austin back line before setting up Clarke who calmly stepped around the keeper before having his shot headed off the line by the Aztec’s Sergio Campbell.
A minute into the second half, Vancouver was finally rewarded. Levis — who had made his return from an injury as a substitute last week — picked up the ball in the Austin half before lashing his shot from outside the box into the top corner for his third goal of the year. Not done yet, Levis doubled his team’s lead in the 58th minute as he dispossessed Austin’s Lance Roozeboom in the Aztecs’ area before sliding it by the onrushing keeper.
After Austin had cut the lead in half in the 66th, WFC2’s Will Seymore bobbled the ball as the last man back, leading to an Aztec break. Spencer Richey did well to deny the initial chance, but Tony Rocha was there to put in the rebound to tie the game during the 80th minute. Five minutes later, the visitors would have their winner as Kris Tyrpak was left alone at the back post to finish of a swift counter attacking move from the Aztecs.
“Today was a great snapshot of what our season has been like,” said head coach Alan Koch following the match. “[We] play some good football, scored two fantastic goals from Brett Levis … and then obviously some momentary lapses and we concede three goals [to] lose the game.”
The loss meant that WFC2 will finish the season 11th out of the 12 team Western Conference. However, this team is built around developing young players and this season has been everything the Whitecaps organization could have hoped for.
“It’s been a growing and learning experience as we’ve gone along,” said Koch. “I feel like I’ve learned. I feel like our players have learned. I feel like our WFC2 group has grown and got better.”
Koch has hinted at a desire to add some more players with USL experience, but for now, they will reflect on an eventful first season. In a season that looks a disappointed on paper, it was anything but. The individual success stories of the unheralded Levis to the much hyped Marco Bustos will be remembered fondly as will the blossoming of the silky smooth Victor Blasco or the stunning saves of Spencer Richey in goal. But overall, this season will be seen as a successful starting point for what promises to be a not-to-miss team in years to come.