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Caps Pave the Way to Championship Final

FC Edmonton came into the second leg of their Canadian Championship semi-final series with the Vancouver Whitecaps needing to win by two or more in order to advance, but instead it was the Caps who pulled off the double - downing the Eddies 2-0, and moving on to the final 5-2 on aggregate, at BC Place last night.

Midfielder Russell Teibert was a sparkplug for the Whitecaps' steamroller versus Edmonton.
Midfielder Russell Teibert was a sparkplug for the Whitecaps' steamroller versus Edmonton.

The victory was complete and comprehensive, but it was their composure that stood out the most. Perhaps Edmonton were out and out over-matched against the Whitecaps, but Vancouver never looked threatened. For my money, it was the best match the team has played all season.

Vancouver came out with a slightly different look, going back to a 4-4-2 diamond, something that was the subject of discussion and conjecture here earlier in the week. Not too surprisingly, coach Martin Rennie went with a mixed assortment of starters and backups.

Brad Knighton started in goal; Greg Klazura, Andy O'Brien (Brad Rusin was tapped to play, but took a knock in practice), Johnny Leveron, and Jordan Harvey made up the back, with Jun Marques Davidson the holding midfielder, Gershon Koffie, Russell Teibert, and Camilo at the top of the diamond; Darren Mattocks and Tom Heinemann were paired up front.

The Caps started briskly, moving the ball very quickly - as they did all night - with plenty of one-touches, deft layoffs and open space passing. There was purpose and confidence at every turn. The Caps were in control, and everybody knew it.

Edmonton tried to exploit the flanks on the rare opportunities to counter quickly, but Vancouver closed down quickly from midfield back, not allowing Edmonton to gather any pace. Koffie, Teibert especially, and even (gulp) Davidson had quality outings on defense. Any Eddies foray that wasn't snuffed out completely by the mids was mopped up by the back line in short order.

Heinemann, the Beast from the East, (well, St. Louis is east of here) played well up front, banging and crashing, challenging in the air, and generating chances. Mattocks did just about everything right, he hit a post, was called offside on a veeeery close play that would have seen him in alone, made some excellent runs, and looked a threat. The guy can't buy a goal right now, so perhaps the Southsiders will pass the hat around next match to help him out.

At the half, the Caps had attempted 10 shots, getting three of them on net. They also enjoyed an edge in possession, but had to settle for a 0-0 scoreline.

Corey Hertzog subbed in for Mattocks at the half, and got the steamroller started early. Just six minutes into the half, Hertzog was put to turf from behind just as he was latching on to a long ball in from Teibert. Perhaps a little harshly, Edmonton's Adrain Leroy was assessed a straight red as last man. And Hertzog struck again at the 58' mark with a 35-yard half volley that bent viciously, curling away from Edmonton keeper Lance Parker, but just inside the post. Then, less than 10 minutes later, Edmonton's Shaun Saiko put the paver in gear with a highlight reel flick on from a Russell Teibert corner. Unfortunately, for Edmonton, Saiko's was an own goal. From that point on, the win was a certainty for Vancouver, and as Edmonton began to fold up their tent, the Caps poured it on till the end.

There's been no place like dome for the Vancouver Whitecaps, as they've only lost three of their last 24 matches on home soil.

Vancouver moves on to play the Montreal Impact in the two-match final later in the year. The Impact cratered Toronto FC earlier in the evening 6-0, to eliminate them 6-2 on aggregate.