They’ve only been and gone and done it guvner.
It’s been a strange season for Vancouver Whitecaps. They’ve been up at the top of the Western Conference for months, leading the Supporters’ Shield race at times. They never could get some breathing space however. Results would go their way, then they’d be hauled back into the pack by not being able to capitalise on the opportunities.
There was no summer slump, but there was an autumnal one and the ‘Caps headed into the last game of the season winless in five MLS matches, and seven in all competitions. They’d fallen to third in the Western standings and could have finished the day anywhere from second to sixth.
REPORT (by Steve Pandher):
Vancouver Whitecaps avoided backsliding into the playoffs, defeating Houston Dynamo 3-0 in front of a sold out BC Place. Second half goals by Kekuta Manneh, Kendall Waston and Robert Earnshaw proved to be the difference, while David Ousted picked up his club equalling 13th cleansheet of the season.
There certainly wasn’t a lack of chances for Vancouver in the first 15 minutes and they came inches away from taking the early lead.
Cristian Techera stole the ball from keeper Joe Willis three minutes in, then crossed it to Octavio Rivero who looked to have an open net but his header was fantastically finger-tipped away by Willis.
Techera had his own chance to score soon after, finding himself free at the top of box and firing a strike that beat the keeper only to hit the bar and stay out.
With ten minutes to go in the opening half, the Dynamo started to control the play and had their best chance come off the foot of Giles Barnes, with a low drive that forced David Ousted into a diving save to keep the game scoreless going into the half.
The first 13 minutes after the break lacked any real chances by either team but in the 59th minute Kekuta Manneh finally got the breakthrough to put the Caps ahead. It was Koffie, after receiving a pass from Laba, who squared the ball to Manneh and after a touch beat Willis from 25 yards out.
The home side would double their lead in the 72nd minute when Kendall Waston connected on a Techera corner. The big defender beat two Dynamo players to the ball inside the six yard area heading the ball to the far post.
A third goal would be added to the final score with Robert Earnshaw finding the net within seconds of coming on, giving the second half sub his second of the season.
The timing of the victory couldn’t have come at a better time, ending the club’s five game winless streak and giving them some momentum heading into the playoffs.
The Caps have also clinched the second spot in the Western Conference which gives them a bye into the Conference semi-finals next Sunday, starting on the road in either LA, Portland or Seattle.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 3 – 0 Houston Dynamo
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Steve Beitashour, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Jordan Harvey; Matías Laba, Russell Teibert; Cristian Techera (Mauro Rosales 74), Gershon Koffie, Kekuta Manneh (Jordan Smith 85); Octavio Rivero (Robert Earnshaw 90+2) [Substitutes not used: Paolo Tornaghi, Christian Dean, Deybi Flores, Nicolas Mezquida]
DALLAS Joe Willis; Sheanon Williams, David Horst, Raul Rodriguez, DaMarcus Beasley; Leonel Miranda (Boniek Garcia 63), Luis Garrido, Ricardo Clark, Giles Barnes (Rob Lovejoy 89); Will Bruin, Erick Torres (Mauro Manotas 61) [Substitutes not used: Tyler Deric, Alex Lima, Rasheed Olabiyi, Taylor Hunter]
On tonight’s win:
“Obviously I’m happy, we got what we deserved. I really believe that if you work hard and do things right, then you get rewarded, and we got our reward today. We won the game versus a very good team with a very good coach and good players. I thought we could score in the first half, but their goalkeeper made really good saves, but we kept working hard and we eventually won the game.”
Did he know they were sitting fifth at half time?:
“I told the team that we needed to keep the focus on the game because if we don’t win the game, it doesn’t really matter which position we would have been in. We wouldn’t have gotten the position that we occupy now if we didn’t win the game today. I really didn’t want to lose my focus because if I lose my focus and my players lose their focus, we wouldn’t win this game, that’s why I didn’t ask anything at the halftime.”
On the decision factor in not playing Nicolas Mezquida:
“My medical staff. I’m very lucky here because this club is a fantastic organization, made by fantastic people, with fantastic supporters. I keep talking about the players every week. Sometimes people say I put too much pressure on them and I really do, this is my job, but today it’s all about the people that make this club great. I mean every single person associated with the club. The medical staff told me it could have been a risk (to play Mezquida), so I made this decision.”
On having a young club:
“We have lot of young players, we are the youngest team in MLS. People sometimes don’t believe you can actually build a team with young players and be successful but I firmly did and the club did a fantastic job backing me on that. The players bought into it from day one and we produced two years of very good football.”
On the turnaround after the past month’s results:
“Everyone makes mistake, we are humans, but we always try to rectify those mistakes. So today we want to give credit to the guys and talk about them, not about me, because we reached a fantastic goal.”
On making the playoffs:
“It’s a great achievement, I’m really proud of the guys and of the club. I firmly believe we recruited a good group of players and we could do something big. We are in the playoffs for the second year in a row, and for the third time in the club’s history. We will try to win it. There will be eight teams that will try to win, we just want to see how far we can go.”
On the energy in the second half:
“The energy that the players put in the second half was great and we need to give credit to them. I just gave a small talk before the second half, I just told them we need to play with more tempo because after the first 15 to 20 minutes, I wasn’t really happy.”
On the team’s overall health:
“Hopefully, I can get a couple of players fit and healthy. As a manager, they criticize everything you do, and I’m aware of that. I brought 14 players to Honduras, Russell Teibert played 90 minutes in the Champions League match and played 90 minutes today as well. We will be ready for the playoffs and we will see how far we can go.”
On Pedro Morales’ injury status:
“Ask him, he will tell you. We will do some test in the next days and we will see, but he’s desperate to play and to be involved in the games.”
On the second-place finish in the Western Conference:
“I thing we deserved, during the course of the season, to get where we are. After 34 games, the league doesn’t lie, so I think we deserved to be where we are today.”
On any playoff superstitions:
“I’m not really superstitious, I keep a picture of my father in my pocket and no more. No superstition in football.”
On scoring in the regular season finale again:
“This one feels great because we knew that today we needed to win and just wait for the other results. The most important thing was only to believe in us. We thought that it didn’t matter if we scored in the first minute or the last minute, we just needed to win it today.”
On what was said at halftime:
“Continue to be patient, have the ball, and play simple. They didn’t have any pressure today, and we know that we needed to win anyhow, but we have to defend properly. So that was the focus in the second half, and be more patient and the goals will come.”
On his emotions after scoring the goal:
“I was relieved. First half, I had like two chances I think, but the third one came in so hopefully now a lot of them will come to me in the playoffs.”
On set pieces in the playoffs:
“Set pieces, they are very important because the games are so close, especially in the playoffs. Set pieces are going to be an important thing for us and for any team.”
On winning Whitecaps FC Player of the Year:
“We have a lot of great teammates, like Matias Laba, Pedro Morales, David Ousted – he had a good season. When the fans vote, I’m very happy.”
On getting a Knockout Round bye:
“It’s good because we close at home and now we make history for the club and it’s always good to make new things for the club.”
On what was said at halftime:
“Nothing really. We didn’t have to talk much in the locker room. We did all the talking throughout the year. It’s about what we do on the field, we do all the talking on the field. We finally took our chances, we’ve created a lot of chances throughout the year. We knew it was going to come one of these days, and today was the game it came.”
On scoring after missing chances during the season:
“Like I said, it’s a work in progress. We work at it all week in training and it finally paid off. There’s games where we’ve had chances and we didn’t take them. We were very unfortunate, and today things went our way.”
On his goal taking the team from fifth place to second place in the Western Conference:
“We didn’t even realize it, but when I came off everyone was excited. It’s great that we’re second and we don’t have to play on Thursday and we can have more energy for the Sunday game.”
On confidence from scoring:
“It’s great, it was great for me to score that goal. It lifted the team up and opened up the game. We were fortunate to have two more goals. It was great for my confidence as well going into the playoffs. I told the media earlier, it would be great if we can have at least two different people score.”
On the loss to Whitecaps:
“Credit to Vancouver. You saw the atmosphere there, that’s the atmosphere that we’re looking to have next year in Houston. They have a terrific young coach and a very good team. Good luck to them.”
On what Houston Dynamo need to improve on:
“Ultimately, goals change games, we know that. If we had gotten a goal up, of course, it changes the game. I’ve said this consistently – when you have bloodied noses, that’s when you have to stand up and look to try to get back in the game. We didn’t do that well enough. We got away from that. We’ve looked at ourselves extensively over the course of the season, we need to get better, it’s as simple as that. We certainly know how to do that and what we need to do to implement those changes. That’s what we need to do. Our aspirations are to be in the playoffs, as Vancouver will be now as they try to win the MLS Cup. The technical staff knows what we have to do and we’ll make those changes.”
On Ricardo Clark’s performance:
“Ricardo has been out the last two or three days, he missed training yesterday. We know what we have in him. He did well but the bottom line is it’s not about who does well individually. It’s about a collective effort and that’s what we strive for, to get better collectively.”
On the Whitecaps attack:
“Whitecaps FC started the season really well. When you pick up injuries to your key players, it can affect your team. What they have is a real pace on the counter attack in transition with Kekuta Manneh and Cristian Techera, and Octavio Rivero can move as well. All credit to them, they’ve got quite an exciting team. They’ll feel confident, they have good players and a good team. ”
On the end of the Houston Dynamo season:
“It’s obviously disappointing. It’s been a roller coaster season. We’ve had high highs and we’ve had low lows. It’s been a learning experience. We have a lot of young players and new players. We have to come back swinging next year. We’ve had hard times with international duties, injuries, and suspensions that we’ve had to deal with at key times. At the end of the day, we didn’t make the playoffs. We have to correct that.”
On what Houston Dynamo need to improve on:
“Maybe we need to take a little bit of softness out of us when we go a goal down. I’d like to see us come out swinging a little bit more. The young players that have come in this year have done really well. The club has a lot to look forward to in the future.”
On Erick Torres’ season:
“He’s a good player. Unfortunately, he came a little later than everyone expected. There’s a settling in period that you’re always going to have when you go into a new club. He’ll come in raring to go. He’s a great kid. He works hard and he’s a very likeable guy as well. He’ll be looking forward to getting his feet under the table in preseason and go from there.”
On Whitecaps’ strength going into the playoffs:
“They have youth so they always have bundles of energy. They like to play football, they’re a really good counter-attacking team. Carl Robinson has them well-rehearsed.”
On tonight’s loss:
“Outside the first 10 to 15 minutes when they had some chances and Joe Willis made some big saves, we settled in to the game. We connected passes and I thought we played well. It’s just a case of once they scored the first goal, we just put our heads down. You can say it’s the last game of the year and we’re not in the playoffs. We can just bend over but we have to respond better than that, no matter what the circumstances are.”
On Houston Dynamo bouncing back next season:
“If you told me at the beginning of the year that we’ll be sitting here and not be in the playoffs at the end of the year, I would have taken a bet against you. That’s the way MLS goes sometimes. We had guys leave for international duty, and that’s more minutes on their legs and more travel. We had guys with suspensions and injuries. Knock on wood, I’m not sure it can get much worse. It can only go up. We have all the pieces, maybe add a few things here or there, then I think we’re up there. I’ll take us against anybody in the playoffs right now.”
On Whitecaps heading into the playoffs:
“I’m sure that 3-0 win will give them a little bit of momentum going into the playoffs. It’s always about hitting your stride at the right time. Vancouver is dangerous on counters. You commit a turnover in the middle and they’re gone. They have quick guys wide that can get behind and get crosses in and score goals, and you’ll see things can change like that. Confidence will definitely be high for them after this game going into the playoffs. With the parity in MLS, it’s about who’s feeling good and who’s playing the best.”