Tyler Rosenlund celebrated his birthday in style with the lone goal for Whitecaps FC2 in a hard-fought 1-1 draw against the Orange County Blues.
The 29 year-old veteran and captain of the Whitecaps let off a booming shot in the box as he snatched a loose ball down low and rifled it over Blues’ keeper Josh Cohen.
Unfortunately, it didn’t prove to be the game winner, as the Blues were relentless for much of the game.
“It’s always nice to score a goal,” the disappointed captain said. “Definitely would rather have the victory, but at least we got away with one point.”
The game proved to be an emotional one, as chippy play from both sides saw a whopping four yellow cards handed out. Star midfielder Victor Blasco was one of many ‘Caps to get into tussles with the other team.
The 32nd minute laser from Rosenlund gave the ‘Caps respite from a stifling Blues midfield that kept WFC2 locked in their own end for much of the first half.
Blues leading scorer Christofer Ramirez had a phenomenal chance, effortlessly picking the ball off ‘Cap defender Deklan Wynne low in the box, but goalkeeper Marco Carducci came through with the save.
Ramirez was only one of several Blues to torment the Whitecaps early on, as the defence and midfield struggled to find its groove. Blues Captain Didier Crettenand was on point with his free kicks and corners but Orange County could not finish in the box during the first half.
After regaining their footing late in the first half, the Whitecaps again looked limp in at the start of the second, allowing their keeper to be pelted by a Blues team ranked third league-wide in shots per game.
Never one to call it a game early, the Blues finally capitalized off of a tasty tap-in by defender Brenton Griffiths in the 50th minute. After that, however, it was all Whitecaps. The ‘Caps locked it down defensively and broke out of their timid shell as they attempted to spring their midfielders with long stretch passes.
Midfielder Wynne was one such recipient, racing towards the net as the crowd roared, but was ultimately robbed by Cohen, who stole the ball out from his feet.
All-out offence was on the menu late in the game as Victor Blasco made a beautiful, deep run through the Blues midfield, with a prime cross-box pass to Caleb Clarke who bowled over the goalie while attempting to finish.
The Blues fought back with a 40 yard rocket from Josh Suggs just grazing the crossbar.
Promising young Whitecaps Residency graduate, Kadin Chung, made his professional debut at the game and nearly stole the show: receiving the ball off a great run by shot-leader Marco Bustos in the 81st minute, the Canadian youngster flashed a bit of skill as he calmly dribbled through two Blues defenders for a breakaway.
A questionable pass right in front of the net was whiffed wide and bewildered the crowd.
“I started coming in and then it all just came so fast,” said the 17 year-old rookie, “I thought it would be an easier option to play it across for the easier finish.”
Emotions flared in the waning minutes, as Bustos and Blues’ substitute Ryan Felix both received yellow cards for a little spat in extra time.
The Whitecaps and Blues improved to 10th and first in the conference, respectively, but the point was meaningless to a young ‘Caps team that was eliminated from the playoff race last week.
“We’ve shown significant improvement during the course of the season. I think we’ve put in some good performances, some poor performances,” said WFC2 coach Alan Koch. “But I think when we get through next week and we reflect on the entire season we’ve definitely progressed and I think the individual players can say they progressed.”
All eyes are on the future now as the Whitecaps finish their season next Sunday at Thunderbird Stadium against the Arizona Aztecs at 6:00 p.m.