As Major League Soccer's trio of clubs from north of the border competed in the Canadian Championships on Wednesday, the contrast between them was startling.

The Montreal Impact required a contentious penalty decision to struggle past North American Soccer League side FC Edmonton, while Toronto FC were able to rest England forward Jermain Defoe and still progress.

It was the team that the Reds eliminated - the Vancouver Whitecaps - who caught the eye, though.

Despite eventually falling to defeat in a penalty shoot-out, Carl Robinson's energetic young Caps had given as good as they got and very nearly overturned their big-spending rivals.

Led by the exciting duo of Erik Hurtado and Kekuta Manneh, they caused their visitors problems all night.

Hurtado fired Vancouver's goal - his second in three starts this season.

Zambian Manneh is in his second year of MLS having been picked fourth in the 2014 SuperDraft.

Lightning quick and with outstanding trickery, he has forced his way into the Whitecaps' starting 11 in recent weeks and has four goals from a wide position so far this year.

Earlier in his career, the 19-year-old trained with both Chelsea and the LA Galaxy, and reports last year linked him with a move to the Blues, Arsenal or Liverpool.

Elsewhere on the pitch, other youngsters also impressed.

Canadian international Russell Teibert captained the side brilliantly, while Marco Carducci in goal looked much more assured than he had on his debut.

Though his diminutive 17-year-old figure never looked likely to repel any of Toronto's spot-kicks, he kept Vancouver in the game with a stunning fingertip save from Daniel Lovitz in the 115th minute.

The Whitecaps may have exited the competition, but head coach Carl Robinson wasn't at all disheartened.

"Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I keep saying to them how proud I am and stuff like that, but what a performance that is ... and we won the game today. Obviously we lost the Cup tie but we won the game. There was only one team that was ever going to win that," he said.

Vancouver are still going strong in the league, with a significant number of this younger group influencing a run of four games without defeat. They're now just six points off the top with a game in hand.

The team that currently sit at the division's peak are Cascadia Cup rivals the Seattle Sounders, who happen to be the Caps' next opponents.

They will host the league leaders a week on Friday full of confidence and in the knowledge that the Rave Green will be without star man Clint Dempsey.

When Kenny Miller departed Canada at the start of the month, Carl Robinson needed his young charges to step up, and they've done exactly that.

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