Whitecaps edge Pacific in opening leg of Canadian Championship semifinal

The Vancouver Whitecaps continued their Canadian Championship title defence Wednesday, downing Pacific FC in the opening leg of the semifinals.

Ryan Gauld scored on a glancing header to give the Major League Soccer side a 1-0 edge midway through the second half.

Goalkeeper Isaac Boehmer preserved the victory with a series of saves as Vancouver’s Canadian Premier League opponents made a late push. 

The second game of the series is set for Aug. 27 at BC Place in Vancouver. 

In Wednesday’s other Canadian Championship semifinal, CPL side Forge FC upset struggling MLS club Toronto FC with a 2-1 scoreline. 

Vancouver comes into the tournament having hoisted the Voyageurs Cup in both 2022 and 2023, but this year’s campaign hasn’t been smooth. 

The ‘Caps faced Cavalry FC of the CPL in the quarterfinals and advanced on away goals after Cavalry took a 1-0 victory in the second leg to tie the aggregate score at 2-2.

Pacific earned a spot in the semifinals with a 2-1 aggregate win over fellow CPL team Atletico Ottawa.

The clubs traded chances across the first half Wednesday, but the score remained knotted at 0-0 as they headed to the locker rooms.

Pacific ‘keeper Emil Gazdov kept Vancouver off the board with a stunning save in the 49th minute, diving sideways to deny Brian White on a header from the top of the six-yard box. The American striker couldn’t help but shake his head in response. 

Nine minutes later, Mathias Laborda sent a long cross into the penalty area, and Gauld leapt up to flick a glancing header into the back of the Pacific net. 

The Whitecaps’ captain has been an offensive force through the MLS season, with nine goals and seven assists in league play. 

This year marks the third time Pacific and the Whitecaps have faced off in the annual tournament. 

The first matchup saw Pacific stun Vancouver 4-3 in preliminary-round action back in 2021. The ‘Caps went on to take a 3-0 victory in the semifinals last year.

Both teams return to league play this weekend, with the Whitecaps visiting St. Louis City and Pacific heading to Hamilton to face Forge.

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