The sun was shining, the Southside were in fine voice and humour and the Caps notched two second half goals for the opening day win. Welcome back football, you’ve been sorely missed.
Season openers are often pretty dire affairs, with both teams struggling to find their feet and shape and with little entertainment on offer. To be fair, that was pretty much the first half.
To give Minnesota Stars full credit, they had the better chances in the first period in what was their inaugural competitive match.
Vancouver threatened first and had the ball in the net on 16 minutes, but Dever Orgill’s effort was ruled out for handball. Two minutes later and the Southside were screaming for a penalty when Marlon James looked to have been impeded in the box but the referee waved play on.
It was the Caps who were breathing a sigh of relief moments later though when Greg Janicki crashed a LeiLei Gao free kick off his own post, with Jay Nolly beaten. It was the closest either team came to scoring in the half and the Stars were also unfortunate when Nolly pulled off a tremendous reaction save to keep out a deflection from a corner on 34 minutes.
As the half came to a close the Caps felt aggrieved when journeyman Stars keeper Louis Crayton went down injured following a clash with Orgill in the box and the referee blew to allow treatment as Vancouver piled forward towards the empty net. Crayton was eventually stretchered off, but play could have been stopped after we had scored!
So goal-less at the half but you felt that the Caps would turn on the style in the second half against a pretty average Stars side, and they did, piling on the pressure from the kick off.
The Caps should have had a penalty for handball on 54 minutes but again the ref waved the appeals away but Vancouver were just delayed taking the lead. They did just that on 62 minutes when Luca Bellisomo powerfully headed home Martin Nash’s free kick from the left.
Vancouver had a few half chances before Marlon James tied things up with 14 minutess remaining when the big St Vincent and Grenadine striker flicked home Nizar Khalfan’s cross from the right. Khalfan looked excellent when he came on and was causing a lot of problems on the right wing.
Minnesota could have pulled a goal back with ten minutes remaining, but there was no-one in the box to put away Melvin Tarley’s dangerous cross across the face of the goal.
It was typical of a poor second half from the Stars, who showed very little against what was almost a Caps onslaught. Later on in the season when Vancouver are a bit sharper, the scoreline would have been a lot more one sided. As it was, the 2-0 final sets up Vancouver’s season nicely.
It’s hard to take too much from the game. It’ll be quite a few games I think before we see how Teitur’s team will be shaped this year. A few players impressed though. I felt that Greg Janicki and Zurab Tsiskaridze were solid and strong at the back. Have great confidence in them both as the season goes on. Khalfan’s pace and skill made the difference when he came on and it was good to see Luca on the scoresheet.
If you want to give your opinions on any standout performances then you can vote in our new 3-2-1 competition on the forum. Just go to the thread HERE.
Minnesota have impressed me a lot off the pitch in the build up to the new season and we’ll be looking at that in more detail in a future blog post. On it, they still have a lot of work to do.
The Whitecaps have been great for second tier football in North America the past couple of decades. Both the team and the fans have been a huge asset to the USL over the years and now the NASL.
The Leagues clearly recognise this and are sad to see us moving off to MLS pastures new next year. Their thank you present to the Southside apparently being the Minnesota players, or more specifically their names.
It was like a gift from above to be served up a team with players called Deldo, Two-Boys and LeiLei. When the PA guy read out “number 15 Devin Deldo”, we just looked at each other and thought we must have misheard. I think we’ve already had the chants of the season in the Southside in game one!
So with a top notch tailgate, which included the best pulled pork sandwiches ever and a visit from the coaching staff, a fine three points on the pitch and a fun time off it, the 2010 season is off with a bang.
I can’t wait for St Louis’ visit already. Mon the Caps.