Vancouver Whitecaps headed to Florida for their first ever meeting with Orlando City on Saturday evening and came through a tough test with all three points to make it maximum points from their two match travels on the road this month.
A 96th minute Octavio Rivero header gave Vancouver a 1-0 win that saw them move into second place in both the Western Conference and Supporters Shield standings.
Here’s our match report and postgame reaction.
Vancouver Whitecaps made it back to back road wins, and clean sheets, after a hard fought battle at MLS new boys Orlando City on Saturday.
The ‘Caps left it very late but once again it was Uruguayan striker who came up with the goods and kept up his goal-a-game scoring record since joining MLS, to give Vancouver a 1-0 win with a fantastic twisting header six minutes into injury time.
Vancouver made three changes to the team that started last week’s win over Chicago. Nicolas Mezquida made the expected start in place of the injured Mauro Rosales, with his fellow Uruguayan Diego Rodriguez coming in for his first MLS start in the centre of the defence in place of Pa Modou Kah, who didn’t make the trip to Florida.
The other change surprisingly saw Gershon Koffie come in to the defensive midfield role at the expense of Russell Teibert, with an eye to a more physical edge to the ‘Caps game.
Orlando had been hit by a stomach bug and injuries in the lead up to the game, but went with pretty much the team that was expected in the build up to the match.
Although it was a lively start, it was pretty much a half devoid off too many clear cut chances for the first half hour, with Orlando looking the more pressing side and Vancouver happy to look to hit on the counter.
The home side were looking the more dangerous but their final ball wasn’t there and were reduced to mostly long range shots and had a penalty appeal waved away.
But it was to be Vancouver, and Octavio Rivero, that had two chances within a minute to open up the scoring.
Pedro Morales played in Rivero in the 34th minute with a ball that split open the Orlando defence and saw the Uruguayan easily leave Aurelien Collin in his wake. But Donovan Ricketts was quickly off his line to narrow the angle for Rivero as he bore down on goal and got something on the striker’s shot as it trickled towards the goal, with Rivero bafflingly not following the ball in.
Moments later Ricketts appeared to tip a Rivero shot at his near post onto the bar, although the referee didn’t see any touch and awarded a goal kick.
Vancouver were now pressing and Morales found himself with space and time just inside the box following a Mezquida cut back, but drilled his low shot wide left.
And that was it for the half. Vancouver will have been disappointed at not taking their chances, once again, but more worrying were the three yellow cards picked up by Koffie, Rivero and Adekugbe.
Orlando regrouped at the half and look much more dangerous from the off, taking the game to Vancouver, who were noticeably looking far more sluggish in the heat.
The home side came close to breaking the deadlock as the hour mark approached, when Pedro Ribeiro got on the end of a Kaka free kick but headed wide.
Both teams were involved in a pushing and shoving match in the 65th minute after a two-footed tackle by Kekuta Manneh on Collin, that saw the Gambian pick up a yellow card, but may end up with him picking up a suspension once MLS review it later in the week.
Ribeiro came within inches or curling a long range effort into the top left corner in the 71st minute, as the game suddenly became played at a much faster pace.
There was bad news for Vancouver moments later when Adekugbe went down after challenging with Ricketts in the box as both went for a ball on the deck, with the young Canadian subsequently stretchered off with what looked like broken ribs.
Vancouver looked like they would be happy to settle for a point but they had a chance to steal it at the death again when a spell of Whitecaps pressure saw Kendall Waston poke a cross to the back post just wide.
Orlando started to push in the final minutes and had the ‘Caps defence running around chasing and they dodged two bullets when first Kaka fired into the side netting and then substitute Cyle Larin fired a cutback wide right.
Larin had another chance two minutes into stoppage time when he was played in beautifully by Kaka, skipped past Rodriguez and tried to round Ousted, but David Ousted produced a fantastic instinct save to knock the ball away.
After surviving that late Orlando surge, Vancouver took the ball up the other end of the park and seemed content to waste away the final seconds, but a lazy challenge six minutes into stoppage time became the difference maker, as the home side gave up a last ditch free kick.
With all Orlando eyes seemingly on Waston as he made his way into the box, Morales whipped the free kick into the area and it was met by Rivero, who twisted his body to fantastically head the ball into the bottom right corner of the net, giving Vancouver the win and sparking wild celebrations from the visitors.
Orlando will feel hard done by but on top chances created, Vancouver deserved the win and with two late victories now secured, the Whitecaps will head into next weekend’s Cascadia derby clash with the Timbers full of confidence.
Still a lot of work to be done by Vancouver to make them top contenders, but I like the way it’s going.
FINAL SCORE: Orlando City 0 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps
ORLANDO: Donovan Ricketts; Rafael Ramos, Aurelien Collin, Seb Hines, Brek Shea; Amobi Okugo, Darwin Ceren, Kevin Molino, Kaka, Eric Avila; Pedro Ribeiro (Cyle Larin 72) [Subs Not Used: Earl Edwards, Sean St Ledger, Luke Boden, Conor Donovan, Tony Cascio, Cyle Larin, Bryan Rochez]
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Steven Beitashour, Kendall Waston, Diego Rodriguez, Sam Adekugbe (Jordan Harvey 76); Matias Laba, Gershon Koffie, Nicolas Mezquida (Kianz Froese 67), Pedro Morales, Kekuta Manneh (Erik Hurtado 67); Octavio Rivero [Subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Jordan Harvey, Tim Parker, Russell Teibert, Darren Mattocks]
On the overall game:
“It was a great game to watch. I enjoyed watching the game. You’ve got the best player in the world playing on the pitch and as a group of players and a coach you want to test yourself. My young group tested themselves today against a very, very good team. Orlando showed how good they were, especially in the second half. They pinned us in, their passing and movement was excellent.”
On playing against Kaka:
“It helped us. We had to deal with him tactically. Our gameplan in the first half worked because they tactically adjusted his position in the second, drifting over to the left, and that’s credit to my two midfield players. You’re not going to stop top, top players getting the ball and when he got the ball he made things happen for them. We knew that would happen. We just had to make sure we were compact and then played our game when we had the ball. We did it excellently in the first half. In the second half it was a little bit difficult for us. You get your rewards if you put the work in and nicking it at the end is probably the best time to do it.”
What will he tell his team about the performance and what to build on?
“I’ll tell them to enjoy it, because if you don’t enjoy it when you win, you get too beat up when you lose as well, and remember how good it feels. Because when I’m pushing them in training every day, it’s for a reason and the reason is to get their rewards like they did today. They’ve got smiles on their faces. The last couple of days we’ve had travelling hasn’t been ideal. It’s been like planes, trains and automobiles and I’ve said to them, sometimes it’s just written that you just win the game of football and today was written.”
On back to back clean sheets:
“Very good. We can tidy up a few things. Diego stepped in and was fantastic. He put in a mature performance for a 22-year-old. As a group, we defended well and limited them to their chances. For us to limit their shot, in the first half especially, and to weather the storm in the second half, I’ve got players that are playing on fumes in the end. But one bit of magic. Pedro whips in a ball and Octavio manages to back head it and we’ll take the points.”
On Rivero making it three goals in three games:
“Again he was very positive and he probably missed the easier chances in the first half. He hit the bar, and you could see how frustrated he was, and also the one where tried to put it through Ricketts’ legs, and it was a great save by Donovan. You’ve got to put yourself in those positions and goalscorers don’t get frustrated when they miss chances and I think you saw that in the last minute. He’s willing to put his head where it hurts and it’s a nice feeling. But it’s not just about Octavio, it’s about all of us, all of the group in there, because the defenders are just as important as the attackers.”
Did he think the Caps were going to get that winner or settle for a draw?
“I’ve got to be honest and say I didn’t think we were going to get the three points from this but what an amazing goal from Octavio. We’re so happy to get away from here with three points. A really tough road game but I think we’ve learned from last year.”
On the defence being under pressure towards the end:
“They’re a good team and the guy they have wearing the armband there is certainly still one of the best players in the world. Credit to the guys in front. A lot of heroic tackles and a lot of hard work. I’m delighted.”
On his save from Cyle Larin:
“Really important. A couple of minutes before we score ours. Just came out, closed him down and luckily got a hand to it. Definitely a great save at an important time.”
On the physicality of the match:
“The physical play was what I thought it was going to be. They’re fighting to show something to the home fans and we’re fighting to get away with three points.”
On getting maximum points from two long away trips:
“Fantastic. That shows the team’s really matured. 14,000 km. Only thing I’m happy with is the bonus points!
On the overall game and his MLS debut:
“It was a great game. All the group were together. We fought to the final whistle and we scored and won the match. That is most important.”
On playing against Kaka:
“It was very difficult. All the time you have to see, because he is a great player. He has a great pass but we played together and we controlled Kaka.”
On playing alongside Kendall Waston:
“The communication was good, as it was with all the team.”
On whether any nerves on MLS debut:
“No, no. Nerves no because the whole team was with me.”
On the overall game and the loss:
“I feel that if there was anyone who was going to win the game, it was going to be us. If I’m being perfectly honest, I think we’ve had too many ‘nearlys’ all night. It was nearly a good play. It was nearly a good cross. It was nearly a good set up. And unfortunately nearly is not going to cut it, and that’s what I’ve just explained to the guys. Nearly is not going to be enough over the course of the season.”
On how his team played:
“We still just had too many cheap giveaways. It was incredible what people were trying to do at times, just trying to be too clever. We decided on numerous times that we wanted to over-complicate the game and that’s not going to work. I have just said to the guys we have to take a lesson from this because I’m not going to put up with it week after week. It isn’t going to continue, I am going to promise you that.”