Whitecaps FC 2 scored both first and last on Sunday afternoon at Starfire Sports Complex to earn its first MLS NEXT Pro victory.

Nick Dasovic’s side used an 85th minute winner from Emiliano Brienza to down the host Tacoma Defiance 2-1 in Week 4’s “Game of the Week.”  WFC 2 goalkeeper Ben Alexander also contributed four saves as Vancouver leapfrogged Defiance into fifth place in the Western Conference standings. 

WFC 2 struck first in the 27th minute as Pipe raced into the middle of the Defiance box to head home a deadly cross from Elage Bah. It was the 22-year-old’s first goal of the MLS Next Pro season and a confident finish past Andrew Thomas.

The lead did not last long for WFC 2 though as Defiance centerback Eric Kinzner equalized for Wade Webber’s squad in the 33rd minute. Kinzner broke away from his defender in the box and headed home Marlon Vargas’ set piece cross for his first goal of the season. 

WFC 2 picked up the pressure in the second half and Brienza came closest to propelling the visitors back in front. After a great passage of play down the left wing, Brienza received possession inside of the box before hitting a low drive towards the bottom-right corner. 

Thomas scrambled to his left and breathed a sigh of relief as Brienza’s shot drifted just wide of the right post. 

Brienza got the last laugh though, delivering the winning goal in the 85th minute after great service from the left wing. Filip Rakic sent in a cross from the left wing that Brienza rifled home after Simon Becher’s original header was blocked in the middle of the box. 

The Defiance could not clear their lines, watching as Brienza netted his first MLS Next Pro goal.

WFC 2 returns to Swangard Stadium on April 24 for a home showdown with Sporting KC II while Tacoma Defiance heads into a bye week.

The Story: Brienza Breaks Through

Although much of the spotlight coming into MLS Next Pro Week 4’s Game of the Week matchup between Tacoma Defiance and Whitecaps FC 2 was on the home team’s attacking talent, it was Emiliano Brienza who shone brightest in the 2-1 win for the visitors.

Brienza scored his first-career MLS Next Pro goal and was a thorn in Defiance’s side for the entire 90 minutes. The 19-year-old Mexican midfielder led all players with four shots in total and was tied with Defiance winger Sam Adeniran for the most shots on goal with two apiece. 

Brienza’s game-winning goal came off of good positioning in the box and a confident finish into the bottom corner of Andrew Thomas’ net. He easily could have netted two goals on Sunday afternoon, showing his technical ability on a prior attempt that Thomas scrambled to watch go just wide.

After WFC 2 lost the services of Simone Masi to a first-half leg injury, Brienza stepped up and played the hero for the visitors. Now the young talent will be pushing for added success as Whitecaps 2 aims to claim its first winning streak of the new season.