Omar Salgado played a key role in both Vancouver goals as the Whitecaps took a 2-0 lead over FC Edmonton in the first leg of their Canadian Championship semifinal series.
On a night when Eric Hassli ending his 17-game goal drought will surely lead the headlines, Omar Salgado stole the show.
The first overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft showed his guile, athleticism and technical ability in the Vancouver Whitecaps’ 2-0 first leg victory over FC Edmonton in the Canadian Championship semifinal on Wednesday, playing a key role in both goals.
First, Salgado confidently took on fullback Paul Hamilton, beating Edmonton’s captain with ease before setting up Hassli for the opener 18 minutes in, which the big Frenchman fired low under David Monsalve to put the ‘Caps into an early lead.
In truth, Salgado terrorized Hamilton and the Edmonton defense time and again at Commonwealth Stadium, and it was his cheeky chip that looked destined for the goal in the 41st minute that led to Vancouver’s second.
The 18-year-old floated the ball over Monsalve, only to watch it bounce off the post into the path of Atiba Harris, who controlled before finding the finish.
“Game by game I’m getting more confidence,” Salgado told reporters after the match. “That’s really what I want and what the team wants – get some assists, get Eric on the ball and try to get him to score. Today, his first goal – I think there’s a lot more from him.”
Given Hassli’s hefty designated player salary, the club will certainly be hoping there’s more to come from the 31-year-old, and while the goal doesn’t end his Major League Soccer scoring drought, the relief of finally getting a goal in any competition was clear to see in the hulking forward’s post game remarks.
“It’s a good feeling,” Eric Hassli said. “Thanks Omar for giving me a great ball. I’m lucky, because it was difficult.
“But I’m happy. Maybe the chances have turned for me now.”
Hassli was quick to acknowledge Salgado’s involvement in the goal and his overall play, as was head coach Martin Rennie.
“I thought he did really well,” Rennie said of Salgado’s play. “I thought he looked very dangerous. He set up two goals. He’s a talent. He’s one we’re working hard with and we want to see him continue to progress. But you can see when he gets the ball in good positions he’s very dangerous.
“We like him in that position [on the left wing]. We think it suits his attributes a lot more and he’s doing well there.”
With the win, Vancouver leads the tie 2-0 on aggregate, putting it firmly in control going into next week’s second leg at BC Place. If the ‘Caps can navigate that leg successfully, they’ll advance to play the winner of Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact, who drew 0-0 at the Olympic Stadium earlier on Wednesday in the first leg of that series.
“They’re always difficult games,” Davide Chiumiento said. “We played a really good first half and I think we deserved this win. It’s a really good result for this first game, and now we have a second game to play. I think we have a good [chance of a] result for the second game.”