A brace by Kei Kamara led Vancouver Whitecaps to a 3-2 win over the visiting Chicago Fire ending a two game losing streak and breathing some new life into their playoff hopes.
Sandwiched between the Kamara goals was Jordon Mutch’s first as a Whitecap, while Nemanja Nikolic had tied things up for the visitors just before half time. Former Whitecap Tony Tchani scored a late one for the Fire to set up a nervy finish, but the ‘Caps held on for a much-needed three points.
It looked from early on that the Whitecaps would keep pushing the ball into attacking areas with them creating a number of chances, and within the first five minutes Felipe forced Richard Sanchez into a stop with his shot from outside the box.
A trio of misses by Kamara followed within four minutes, including a lob where he caught the keeper off his line but couldn’t keep the ball from going over the bar.
Kamara redeemed his missed shots before the half hour mark when he was able capitalize on a parry by Sanchez from a Reyna strike to put Vancouver up on top, finishing from about a yard out.
Three minutes later and it was nearly two when Davies was sent in a 1v1 with the keeper only to see his attempt saved and bounce of the woodwork.
It looked as though the ‘Caps would be holding on to a lead going into the break but once again a defensive breakdown in the final minutes allowed Nikolic to convert a Kevin Ellis pass to draw the match even going into the half.
That scoreline only lasted till the 47th minute when Efrain Juarez sent a ball over the backline into the path of Mutch who rounded the keeper, and after allowing a moment to let the ball settle, slotted into the open net.
The Fire had a decent chance to tie it up around the hour mark but Brian Rowe was able to stop a shot from a tight angle from Aleksander Katai.
After a couple of failed counters by the Whitecaps, they were able to make one count as Alphonso Davies made a run to byeline and cut a pass back to Kamara who slotted one in for his second of the match.
Surely that was the Whitecaps home and dry? Not with this team!
With less than ten minutes to go, Chicago were able to pull one back when former Cap Tchani got hold of a failed clearance and fired a strike from just inside the box into the top corner of the net.
The Fire were close to completing the comeback with a couple of minutes to go when a header from Jonathan Campbell was parried over the bar by Rowe.
However they had a better chance in injury time when Nikolic was alone with the ball ten yards out and fired the ball over the net.
It was a far nervier ending than it should have been for Vancouver but there was also clear relief when the final whistle sounded on the 3-2 victory.
With the win the Whitecaps hold onto sixth spot in the Western Conference with Houston and LA Galaxy just a point behind, while Kamara’s first goal pushed him past Canadian Dwayne De Rosario into sole position of seventh place in the all-time MLS goalscorers.
Vancouver will have their next two matches on the road, out east against DC United and then Cascadian rival Seattle, before returning home at the end of the month to host Minnesota United, with their two Canadian Championship semi-final matches squeezed in amongst all that. A busy time and every point will definitely count.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 3 – 2 Chicago Fire
VANCOUVER: Brian Rowe; Jake Nerwinski, José Aja, Doneil Henry, Marcel de Jong; Jordon Mutch (Russell Teibert 73), Felipe, Efraín Juárez, Alphonso Davies; Kei Kamara (Anthony Blondell 83), Yordy Reyna (Sean Franklin 90+1) [Substitutes not used: Stefan Marinovic, Nicolás Mezquida, Brek Shea, Aly Ghazal]
CHICAGO: Richard Sánchez; Kevin Ellis, Jonathan Campbell, Brandon Vincent, Jorge Corrales; Dax McCarty (Tony Tchani 78), Brandt Bronico; Aleksandar Katai (Elliot Collier 70), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Jon Bakero 79), Diego Campos; Nemanja Nikolic [Substitutes not used: Stefan Cleveland, Mo Adams, Alan Gordon, Rafael Ramos]
On tonight’s victory:
“I’m very pleased. We did well in stretches during the game. We missed a lot of chances again. We made it difficult for ourselves. In the end, at 3-1, we should’ve put it to bed, we didn’t, and made it a bit interesting. I think we deserved the victory. They’re a very good team with key players in key areas. But we’ve done well to limit them.”
On Alphonso Davies and Yordy Reyna creating chances:
“We just need to be better at final third play because when you’ve got players like that, Fonzie can do that, then you have chances. Not just Fonzie, I thought Yordy Reyna was the best player on the field today.”
On Kei Kamara’s performance:
“Kei played very well today. I don’t know what Kei was doing prior to the game but he was great when he was on the field. He did what he’s paid to do, which is score goals. I thought at times we were electric going forward and we played better in certain areas. ”
On conceding a goal late in the first half:
“The end of the first half really annoyed me because we were in total control in the first half and we switched off from a throw-in. It’s three-v-two and we don’t get that right and they score. It’s the story of our season at the moment. We make things a little bit more difficult than we need to. We need to tidy that up and we will. Credit to Kei who gets back on the score sheet.”
On Jordon Mutch having his best game with the ‘Caps:
“It was. We’re delighted to have Mutchy here, we’re very lucky. He’s a top, top player and a good person as well. He showed what he’s all about today playing in that position. He’s got quality on the ball. You don’t play in the Premier League and the Championship for a number of games like he’s done if you’re not a very good player. He enjoyed it today. I didn’t want to take a risk by playing him too long. He was in a good groove at that time, I decided to take him off as a precaution. He ran out of steam but if we get him fully fit, what a player we’ve got.”
On the feeling after the victory:
“I feel good. We’ve been working so hard so it’s a reward tonight for us and for the fans.”
On scoring two goals:
“Goals, that means getting points, and that’s all that matters to me right now. Personally, I wish I could score more goals as I’ve been getting chances. Guys have been creating so much and I just want to put them in the back of the net. Today, I was in the right place at the right time. Alphonso did some good work, Jordon scoring his first goal for the club, it’s a big night for us. It’s a big win.”
On Alphonso Davies’ set up on his second goal:
“It’s magic. We just have to help him out. He’s a kid that has a lot of talent. We’ve said that over and over. It’s just about trying to mature his game a little bit, and for me as a striker, I just want to make sure I’m at the end of the play when he does all of his hard work and somebody’s there to help him. I was happy to be there at the end of it, because I knew there was only one way to go, which was to put the ball in the centre, and I was there.”
On the feeling after scoring his first goal with Whitecaps:
“First and foremost, it’s good that we got the win that we needed. It’s nice to get a goal, it’s nice. It’s obviously a nice feeling. But the game is done now and I’ll take that one, enjoy it tonight and move on to next week.”
On taking chances:
“I thought we could have been 3-0 up in the 25-30 minutes. We had some great opportunities and we couldn’t put them away. But we still managed to get three goals and when you get three goals in a game, you should be able to win the game.”
On the momentum heading into three-game road trip:
“It’s obviously nice for the confidence of the boys. It’s going to be a big road trip coming up. We just need to focus one game at a time. All the boys have confidence in themselves. We can go to D.C. and get a good run.”
On his goal:
“The ball wasn’t sitting right, I had to wait. I think in the crowd people were getting nervous a little bit, but I had to wait to settle it and put it in.”
On how his team his progressing:
“It’s where we are right now. Sometimes we’re better at handling our weaknesses better. Sometimes, like today, we’re just a little bit innocent, especially conceding the second goal very early in the second half where we actually had the control of the game. That’s in the past. We’re getting better with that, but still we have to work on it.”
On message for his team for the second half of the season:
“To be more consistent. We have to do less of what we haven’t been doing well, and more of what we’ve been doing well. The most important thing is this is the most important part of the season. From now, everything is going to become more difficult. There will be more urgency from all the teams fighting for the spot, being right on the edge [of the playoffs]. That puts you in the situation that you know you are the team to beat every game. There’s a lot in play. We have to be at our best. We have to prepare, there is no time. No excuses for anything but I believe our locker room gets that, and we’re doing our best. We’re improving and the experience of the work we did in the past, and how we did that, that’s going to be the key point right now. Stick together, I think we have a very good group. After six months now of working together, they know each other better, and they like each other better. That’s helpful. That’s how the team should be. That’s something that will guide us through the rest of the season.”
On his assessment on tonight’s performance:
“We did well in many occasions, but we obviously didn’t do well in other moments. There was also the results, they influenced our reactions. The Whitecaps definitely have a good team. We matched many times their qualities and we exposed their weaknesses. We were close. I am proud of our team, of the character of playing until the end, and how we adjusted and how we reacted to the goals. Huge credit to the Whitecaps but we could’ve done better with the goals, it’s on us.”
On the final result:
“We are not happy with the end result. We gave away three goals, it’s too much, then it’s not easy to win the game. Some minutes we played well, we had possession, we played to the right player, and in some parts, we didn’t. We gave away the goals and we lost.”
On team consistency:
“We need to improve our game, to improve the level and then you will win or become more consistent. We have too many ups and down and then we struggle to make the points and we end up where we are. That’s the reason.”
On embracing MLS and playing in places like Vancouver with turf:
“I play soccer because I like the game and I don’t care if it’s turf or normal grass. I enjoy playing on the turf, of course I prefer always grass but that’s not a problem for me. I have to say, Vancouver’s a very good crowd. I saw many German flags as well. They really welcomed me very well, so thank you for that.”
On Alphonso Davies:
“It’s not easy for me because I didn’t see so many games of him. But you can see he has speed and skills offensively, transition-wise. He is very good, but I think you should ask other players that know him better than me.”
On Alphonso Davies’ potential, prospect playing in Europe:
“How old is he? 17. Oh, 17? He doesn’t have his drivers’ license, right? Obviously, he has potential, if he keeps working. Of course, he probably he has a chance to play in Europe. With that speed, technique and skills, if he works hard for the defence, of course, he can play in Europe. As I said before, it’s not easy for me to judge him because I didn’t see him, I don’t know him has a person, but I wish him good luck.”
On advice for Alphonso Davies:
“Every day when you go to work, try to improve. Try to improve as a player and as a person. It’s very important to have a good attitude, to respect people and to enjoy the game.”
On the move to MLS:
“Yes, I feel very happy with Chicago, I like living in Chicago. There is a great coaching staff here. I really enjoy it and so far, I can say I am very happy here. I have a one-year contract so we will see how it goes. I am happy being here in MLS, really interesting league, interesting rules. Every game is close, you never know. In Europe, like Germany, you have Bayern Munich. In England you have four five clubs who dominate the league. But here it’s interesting, who’s going to be the best team. It’s interesting for the people here.”
On if he had extra satisfaction scoring against the team that traded him:
“I wouldn’t say no, because I wanted to get three points. It’s always good to score, but at the end of the day, it’s three points that matter.”
On if he knew his time in Vancouver was coming to an end when they added all the midfielders in offseason:
“You know those things, happen. I have no comment. I didn’t see that coming, I feel like it’s their decision. You just have to keep moving.”