As a recent Princeton graduate, Thomas Sanner is no stranger to accepting praise and recognition, but even he was touched by the gesture of his team following his game saving hat trick in the team’s 3-1 win over Arizona United.
“It was awesome, I didn’t know that was a thing,” said a beaming Sanner following the match. “The team gave me the game ball, and I think everyone is going around signing it right now. A good souvenir to have for sure.”
The big striker came on just after the hour mark and rescued a struggling WFC2 team that looked destined for yet another defeat. Sanner scored the equalizer against a ten man Arizona side in the 84th minute, before adding the winner off of his own rebound in the 87th. He completed the hat trick for good measure deep into stoppage time as he finished off a tidy counter attack to put the game away. He becomes the first player in WFC2 history to score three in a game and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the team.
“Give him full credit, amazing performance to come off the bench and do that,” said head coach Alan Koch. “Give the whole team credit though, I thought in the second half we showed the desire, the application, I think we played a lot more confident in the second 45 minutes which allowed us to try to break them down.”
The fairy tale feeling that the match ended on seemed like an unlikely possibility for the majority of the 90 minutes. Having been winless in their last four, and only one win in their last eight, the ‘Caps seemed destined to continue their run of poor form.
Sem de Wit handed the visitors the opening goal in the 17th minute as he gifted Tyler Blackwood a breakaway with a bad pass near midfield. Daniel Haber would miss two glorious opportunities to tie the game including miscuing an absolute sitter from six yards out in the 78th minute.
Sanner would bring the crowd at MacLeod Athletic Park in Langley to their feet in the 84th minute as Thomas Gardner did well to escape two defenders in the corner before laying in a cross for Sanner to volley home from eight yards out.
Three minutes later Sanner was at it again.
Sanner banged in his own rebound from six yards out after Car Woszcynski had made a phenomenal save at full stretch to deny Sanner’s initial header.
Kyle Greig, still looking to break his lengthy goal drought, unselfishly gave the ball up on a 2-on-1 late into injury time, allowing Sanner to slide in his third of the game.
Arizona was forced down to ten men in the 59th minute as Blair Gavin was shown his second yellow for standing in front of Ben McKendry’s quick free kick attempt.
The win was a crucial one for Vancouver, having fallen back into the thick of the ultra competitive playoff chase in the Western Conference. Thanks to Sanner’s heroics, the ‘Caps remain tied atop the West with Sacramento, who WFC2 visit next Saturday.
“I think we’ve set ourselves up for a really exciting development opportunity for our group because it looks like next week, we’re going to Sacramento, at their place, tied atop the league. What’s more exciting than that?” said Koch.
“You can’t ask for anything better than that, we’ll be ready to go I promise you,” Sanner said of next week’s heavyweight clash. “Definitely looking forward to it, looking forward to the atmosphere and having the whole team rise to another level as we prepare for the playoffs.”
If WFC2 rise to the occasion the way Sanner did on Sunday, the ‘Caps will be in business. Just ask Arizona.
Image: Whitecaps FC / Bob Frid