Photo courtesy of Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2
VANCOUVER, B.C. – Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2’s Daniel Haber tallied an 89th-minute score as sixth-seeded WFC2 defeated seventh-seeded OKC Energy FC 3-2 on Saturday in the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2016 USL Cup Playoffs at Thunderbird Stadium. Kianz Froese and former Energy FC player Kyle Greig provided the other scores for Vancouver, which had enjoyed a 2-0 lead early in the second half. Energy FC, coming off an improbably rally against Rio Grande Valley FC a week ago, rallied once again with Danni Konig tallying in the 60th minute and then Timo Pitter carving an impressive 22-yard strike in the 80th minute to tie the score at 2-2. Vancouver found one more chance in the waning minutes and Haber patiently waited for the right moment to slot the ball past OKC goalkeeper Cody Laurendi for the winner. WFC2, in the midst of its first poseason, will face either the fourth-seeded Swope Park Rangers or eighth-seeded Orange County Blues FC in the conference final. Swope and Orange County face each other Sunday in the conference semifinal stage.
Three Things That Mattered:
1. There was a sense of irony in Daniel Haber tallying the winning score against OKC. In the 53rd minute, Haber was denied by OKC goalkeeper Cody Laurendi, who elected to forgo an invitation to play with the Puerto Rico national team this week to continue Energy FC’s postseason run. Laurendi’s save prevented Vancouver from taking a three-goal lead at the time, and in actuality it served as a turning point for Energy FC, which gained a spark and tallied back-to-back goals thanks to Danni Konig and Timo Pitter, the latter’s strike being one of the most impressive pieces of brilliance in an exciting postseason. The game seemed destined for overtime, but Vancouver found one last run as the ball was crossed in from the right and popped out to Haber. Haber then worked the ball to his less-favorable left foot and slotted it past Laurendi for the winner and his first goal of the postseason.
2. Kianz Froese was responsible for the majority of Vancouver’s set piece chances, and a dangerous free-kick delivery ended up being the game’s opening goal in the 27th minute. Froese only scored one goal during the regular season, but in the postseason he has scored two goals in two games. His right-footed ball from the left flank looped toward the edge of the six-yard box, and neither WFC2’s attack nor the OKC’s back line got a touch. Laurendi had to anticipate a deflection or shot, and when neither occurred, he could only watch Froese’s cross sneak inside the far right post as WFC2 grabbed the 1-0 lead. Froese had a strong opening half beyond this sequence, with a dribble and shot in the 40th minute that scooted just wide left of the frame.
3. With Vancouver captain Kyle Greig facing his former OKC side from a year ago, naturally the spotlight on his play as the defining member of WFC2 this season and USL veteran was going to take front and center. Greig found his second goal of the postseason in the early stages of the second half, but it was the play of Kadin Chung that led to the opportunity. Chung dribbled the ball up from the right side, brought it toward the middle of the pitch and drew OKC’s defense with him as he neared the 18-yard box. Chung then dished to the left of the box to Greig, who fired to the far right of the goal past Laurendi for a 2-0 cushion in the 48th minute. Greig now has 13 goals this season as he tallied against an Energy FC side that had advanced past this stage of the postseason a year ago.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match:
Daniel Haber, Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 – Haber tallied the winning goal for Vancouver, and he nearly had a goal in the 60th minute that at the time could have put the match out of reach if not for a strong stop from Cody Laurendi.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2: Western Conference Final vs. No. 4 Swope Park Rangers or No. 8 Orange County Blues FC, TBD
OKC Energy FC – End of Season
27’ – VAN – Kianz Froese
48’ – VAN – Kyle Greig (Kadin Chung)
60’ – OKC – Danni Konig
80’ – OKC – Timo Pitter
89’ – VAN – Daniel Haber
VAN: 39-Spencer Richey; 63-Kadin Chung (48-Christopher Diaz, 63), 51-Sem de Wit, 14-Cole Seiler, 46-Brett Levis; 58-Will Seymore, 65-Matthew Baldisimo (57-Thomas Sanner, 72’); 38-Kianz Froese, 64-Thomas Gardner, 56-Daniel Haber (45-Giuliano Frano, 90’+2); 47-Kyle Greig (capt.)
OKC: 1-Cody Laurendi; 19-Michael Harris, 4-Cyprian Hedrick (28-Wojciech Wojcik, 90’), 26-Coady Andrews, 22-Kalen Ryden; 15-Timo Pitter, 8-Michael Thomas (capt.), 25-Michael Byskov, 30-Andy Craven (7-Sebastian Dalgaard, 52’); 27-Colin Bonner, 9-Danni Konig
Venue: Thunderbird Stadium