Whitecaps FC play to 1-1 draw with FC Edmonton in first leg of Amway Canadian Championship semi

The away goal gives FC Edmonton a slight advantage, but everything is still to play for when the two teams meet again next Wednesday, May 20 at Clarke Field.

A young Vancouver Whitecaps FC side battled back to earn a 1:1 draw with FC Edmonton on Wednesday night in the first leg of the 2015 Amway Canadian Championship semifinal at BC Place.

The visiting Eddies scored an all-important away goal in the fourth minute, but an 87th-minute Gershon Koffie equalizer gave the ‘Caps some life heading into next week’s second leg in Edmonton.

Koffie, who wore the captain’s armband, was one of the more experienced players in Vancouver’s starting lineup for Wednesday’s match. As expected, head coach Carl Robinson made a number of changes after a weekend win over Philadelphia Union.

In fact, rookie defender Tim Parker, who was named Man of the Match for Vancouver, was the only player who started both games. Parker’s centre back partner Christian Dean was one of three players making their first starts of 2015. The others were Canadian midfielder Kianz Froese and goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi, who made his long-awaited Whitecaps FC first-team debut.

And Tornaghi was tested early.

After missing an earlier chance, Eddies striker Tomi Ameobi put the North American Soccer League outfit ahead in the fourth minute. The English striker combined with Ritchie Jones to force a turnover deep in Whitecaps FC territory before calmly slotting it passed a sprawling Tornaghi from close range.

It was a dream start for the visiting Eddies – and a disastrous one for the home side.

Matters got worse in the 17th minute, when left back Sam Adekugbe limped off with a right ankle sprain. That forced Robinson to use an early substitution in the form of Jordan Harvey.

It took a little while for the ‘Caps to settle in, but they began to take over around the 20-minute mark. Vancouver had their first chance in the 24th minute, when 18-year-old Deybi Flores played a nice one-two with Darren Mattocks before blasting a strike just wide.

They came close again just a few minutes later, when a lively Froese headed a Nicolas Mezquida free kick just over the goal. Robinson’s side finished the half strong, but entered the break down by one.

Whitecaps FC kept coming early in the second half.

In the 50th minute, Eddies goalkeeper Matt VanOekel came up with a big save on a heavy Erik Hurtado strike from the penalty spot. Shortly later, he turned away a decent Mattocks attempt from a similar area. And then in the 66th minute, Mattocks released Hurtado into the box with a header from midfield but the 24-year-old missed wide.

Finally, the ‘Caps broke through in the 87th minute, when a deflected Harvey cross fell to Koffie in the centre of the box. The Ghanaian alertly cut back to his left foot before poking it in, bringing the score level ahead of next week’s second leg in Edmonton.

The away goal gives FC Edmonton a slight advantage, but everything is still to play for when the two teams meet again next Wednesday, May 20 at Clarke Field. The team that scores more combined goals between the two games will advance to face Montreal Impact in the two-leg final (with away goals serving as the tiebreaker).

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