The wonders of the MLS scheduling department sent Vancouver Whitecaps to New England this evening for the clubs’ second meeting this season.
A balanced schedule is great, and long overdue, but for two teams to have already played each other twice by week nine is not ideal for anyone.
The last time the two teams met was a fiery affair, with three sending offs and the teams playing out a 1-1 draw. Tonight’s game though was a markedly different encounter.
Teitur Thordarson’s starting eleven roulette continued to puzzle Whitecaps supporters. With a key Voyageurs Cup final against Toronto FC coming up on Wednesday, and a Concacaf Champions League spot on the line, a number of key players were rested and Alain Rochat and Eric Hassli didn’t even make the trip for varying reasons.
There were a staggering six Whitecaps changes from the side that started the 1-1 draw at home to San Jose on Wednesday. Jay DeMerit, Blake Wagner, Gershon Koffie, Russell Teibert, Omar Salgado and Long Tan all came into the team.
The inclusion of Tan in particular was a major surprise, with the Chinese Canadian seemingly not in Thordarson’s plans in recent weeks.
It was a line up that indicated once again that Vancouver looked to be keen to sit back, soak up the pressure and attack late on. It’s not been the most successful tactic this season and it wasn’t one that worked again tonight.
The game kicked off in wet conditions at a sparsely populated Gillette Stadium and the opening minutes of the match were nothing to write home about, with neither side creating anything of note.
We had to wait until the 19th minute for the first side to come anywhere close to opening the scoring and it was the home side that got that chance.
Chris Tierney sent in an inviting cross from the left and as Jay DeMerit slipped in the wet conditions, Benny Feilhaber hit his close range header off the back of Mouloud Akloul and out for a corner.
As the heavens opened, the Whitecaps finally had their first chance of the match in the 26th minute. Wes Knight sent a perfect ball into the box from the right but it eluded both Long Tan and Omar Salgado, when the slightest touch from either looked like it would have given Vancouver the lead.
The game fell into a bit of a snoozefest, with neither side looking likely to force a save, never mind score.
As the game ticked into the last minute of the half, Salgado hit a low shot out of nowhere that forced Matt Reis into a fine low save.
And that was it for the half. Scoreless and pretty much actionless.
There were no changes at the half, but the hopes were that we would at least see something more exciting for the second period.
It took only three minutes for the action to liven up. Knight mistimed his tackle on Feilhaber inside his own box and the referee had no option but to point to the spot. Shalrie Joseph stepped up and found the bottom left corner, just past the fingertips of Jay Nolly. 1-0 New England.
Feilhaber had the ball in the net in the 55th minute, with a fantastic chipped finish, but was ruled offside.
The game fell back into a lull, but it was Salgado that awoke it from its slumber again in the 70th minute when he got on the end of Wagner’s flighted cross and Reis was forced to claw the ball around the post for a corner. It was a fantastic save from the New England stopper to keep his side’s lead.
Both sides made changes before Feilhaber tried to test Nolly with a long range effort, which the Vancouver keeper easily held.
Nolly was called into action again in the 82nd minute and made a big save from Revolution sub Sainey Nyassi, who had powered into the box and forced the Caps keeper into a sprawling save.
The visitors had a great chance to tie things up in the 89th minute when Shea Salinas’ cross found Long Tan at the back post, but his weak first time effort went straight at Reis.
Despite the Caps stoppage time push for an equaliser, they couldn’t repeat what they achieved on Wednesday evening and the final whistle signalled another away defeat for Vancouver.
They haven’t had their troubles to seek on their road trips this season, but with a weak starting line up, it was always going to be an uphill struggle for the Whitecaps.
The message was clear. Wednesday’s Voyageurs Cup final is more important to the Caps than this game. They now need to show that resting their top players was worth it and secure a first leg lead in that match. Anything else and the Vancouver natives will be very restless.
FINAL SCORE: New England Revolution 1 – 0 Vancouver Whitecaps
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION: Matt Reis; Kevin Alston, Ryan Cochrane, A.J. Soares, Chris Tierney; Stephen McCarthy, Benny Feilhaber, Darrius Barnes, Zak Boggs (Sainey Nyassi 74); Shalrie Joseph, Rajko Lekic (Kheli Dube 81) [Subs Not Used: Bobby Shuttleworth, Franco Coria, Kenny Mansally, Zack Schilawski, Pat Phelan]
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS: Jay Nolly; Wes Knight, Jay DeMerit (Greg Janicki 64), Mouloud Akloul, Blake Wagner; Shea Salinas, Gershon Koffie, Jeb Brovsky, Russell Teibert (Davide Chiumiento 79); Long Tan, Omar Salgado (Nizar Khalfan 74) [Subs Not Used: Joe Cannon, Terry Dunfield, Jonathan Leathers, Camilo da Silva Sanvezzo]