Vancouver Whitecaps are so frustrating this season.
After the disappointment of defeat in Montreal on Wednesday night, and after a string of mixed results, the ‘Caps became record breakers on Saturday, beating LA Galaxy 1-0 to end their 29 home game unbeaten streak.
As far as the Whitecaps results go this season, the victory is right up there with Vancouver’s 2-0 win over LA at the start of April. That was a complete team performance and it was the same on Saturday night.
Those two wins over LA bookend a ten game run of games that produced only three wins and 11 points for Vancouver. Thankfully other results went their way and kept their head above water and the chasing pack.
With tonight’s win the Caps now sit tied for the lead of the Supporters’ Shield and the Western Conference, as they head into a bye week and some much needed rest.
A loss could have seen them come back from that break right in the pack and fighting for their playoff positioning. As Carl Robinson is fond of saying, fine lines.
Here’s our match report and postgame reaction from both locker rooms after the 1-0 win.
Los Angeles Galaxy’s last defeat at the StubHub Center came on March 8th last year in a 1-0 First Kick defeat to Real Salt Lake. That was 29 games and counting, in all competitions, as Vancouver Whitecaps headed to Carson, California.
‘Caps coach Carl Robinson has said post match that records are made to be broken, so why couldn’t it be them? No reason at all as it turned out.
Kekuta Manneh’s 32nd minute strike was the difference between the two teams on the night, but Vancouver had the far better chances throughout, hitting on the counter and squandering their opportunities to win by a few. That’s still a concern, but that’s also for another time.
After making six changes to his starting line-up for the midweek loss in Montreal, Robinson returned his big hitters for this one, against a weakened, but still strong, LA side.
The home side had the better of the early going without creating any real threat to David Ousted’s goal.
Goalmouth action in general was hard to come by, with both defences mopping up whatever was coming towards them.
The game needed a spark. It came in the 32nd minute and opened the scoring for Vancouver.
Manneh collected the ball inside his own half, playing it forward to Octavio Rivero who took a few touches before playing it back out wide to the winger. The Gambian had been a handful for the Galaxy defence to start the match and gave them more trouble, cutting inside of a backing off Omar Gonzalez before firing home past Brian Rowe from the edge of the box.
The young speedster was having an impressive game, both in attack and with a strong defensive shift, and he nearly set Cristian Techera up for the second with four minutes of the half remaining, but the Uruguayan fierce strike was touched off the near post by Rowe.
A strong first half by Vancouver, and keeping themselves tight in the second was now the key.
As it turned out, LA didn’t really look all that threatening in the final third and Vancouver continued to have the best chances, just not taking them and killing the game off.
Manneh had a chance to add a second ten minutes into the second half, when he sprung the Galaxy defence, but his first touch let him down and allowed Rowe to come out quickly and block the danger.
Robbie Keane came close moments later, as you wondered how costly a miss Manneh’s could be. But there was more, and worse, to come!
Sub Alan Gordon came within inches of getting his toe on a dangerous Stefan Ishizaki ball across goal in the 63rd minute, in a lucky escape for the ‘Caps.
As LA pressed, Vancouver should have made it two in the 72nd minute on a quick counter-attack.
Rivero received a pass from Pedro Morales just inside the ‘Caps half, easily turned Leonardo and bore down on goal on a two-on-one break with the ‘Caps captain. With Rowe narrowing the angle, the Uruguayan made the perfect pass inside to Morales but the Chilean could only look on in anguish as his shot crashed off the left post with the goal gaping.
The rebound fell to Rivero but took an awkward bounce and LA cleared the danger.
The Galaxy nearly made them pay, but Keane was unable to connect on a long ball forward.
It was deja vu with seven minutes remaining when Rivero found himself on another two-on-one break, this time with sub Darren Mattocks, but the strikers ball inside was too hard for the Jamaican to get on to.
A concerning as the misses are, it wasn’t to matter and the Caps held on for a historic win.
Vancouver now go into a bye week and two weeks rest until their next match away to New York Red Bulls on June 20th. It just got a lot more enjoyable for them. Psychologically, this result could be massive.
FINAL SCORE: Los Angeles Galaxy 0 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps
LOS ANGELES: Brian Rowe; Oscar Sorto, Omar Gonzalez, Leonardo, Baggio Husidic; Stefan Ishizaki, Juninho, Mika Vayrynen (Kenney Walker 56), Ignacio Maganto (Sebastian Lletget 75); Robbie Keane, Edson Buddle (Alan Gordon 60) [Subs Not Used: Andrew Wolverton, A.J. DeLaGarza, Tommy Meyer, Rafael Garcia]
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Steven Beitashour, Kendall Waston, Pa Modou Kah, Jordan Harvey; Matias Laba (Russell Teibert 75), Gershon Koffie, Cristian Techera, Pedro Morales (Darren Mattocks 80), Kekuta Manneh (Mauro Rosales 75); Octavio Rivero [Subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Christian Dean, Nicolás Mezquida, Robert Earnshaw]
On how it feels to get the win tonight:
“It feels very good; it feels very nice after a long road trip in Montreal on Wednesday and then coming here against the champs, 29 games unbeaten. I challenged them before the game, I said ‘you got to believe you can do it’, because I firmly believed we could, and I was proved right.”
On the play of Kekuta Manneh tonight:
“I thought he was excellent, if you look and see what he does off the ball well, his movement, his patterns are getting better, on the defensive side he is getting better and obviously he could have maybe scored another goal or two because he got through once or twice and his touch let him down. With all young players, they make mistakes, it is important you work with them and you continue to evolve with them and we will continue to do that with him. Octavio [Rivero] put two on a plate, one for Pedro [Morales] which he hit the post, Cristian [Techera] was a constant threat, and then Mauro came on and showed passing range as well. I am delighted for the boys because we put a lot of work in this week.”
On the performance of the defence tonight:< “Excellent, really really was positive with them, because if you do you jobs correctly, individually and collectively then you have a chance to win any game and you rely on your forwards to take chances. Kendall and Pa were excellent, we know Los Angeles likes to attack the fullbacks and get width that way, you have to defend your box and we did that very well today. All of the guys in the locker room deserve a huge pat on the back for their performance tonight.” On moving forward after this win:[On TSN radio] “It’s important that we keep a perspective on this. We’ll keep our feet ground. I don’t get too excited when we get a really, really good result and I don’t get too beat up when we don’t get a very good result. What’s important to me is performance. Over the first period of this season, our performance levels have been pretty high for three quarters of the time. When we come back I’ve got to make sure that we can kick on again because the quality and belief in the squad, if it continues to improve on a daily basis, on a weekly basis, then we’ll hopefully get to where we want to get to.”
On the team’s performance tonight:
“I thought it was great, we played as a team like we always want to. It was a great result, we have never won here I heard, so it was a good win for us going into the break and we can put our feet up and relax. It was a really good win for us.”
On matching up with Omar Gonzalez:
“The first time I took him outside, second one I took him inside and on the goal he probably didn’t know where I was going to go. I talked about it with the coaching staff and the players, they told me ‘you have a lot of potential’, but you have to learn the game, go in and out on the defenders and it will be difficult for defenders to predict where you are going to go, so that is what I did. The first two opened up the goal. I had made up my mind, talking with the coaches since last year, just have the ball on your feet, make your mind up, decide what you are going to do before you have the ball and that is what I have been working on and finally pulled it off today.”
On getting the victory going into a bye week:
“It’s really big, like I said we had never won here so it was extra joy for us, but it is a really good win. I don’t know where we are standing on the table but I think we are up there now, it is a good win, we can have a week off and everybody go where everybody want to go and then come back and get ready for New York.”
On the match tonight:
“I am obviously very about the team and how we worked, that kind of game makes us think how good this team can be, we just have to believe in this team and believe in the work that we do every day to become a good team. The Los Angeles Galaxy, and this stadium, and their fans, they had a 29 game unbeaten streak, it was a very good game for us, and the motivation was perfect for us. I have high praise for the guys and collectively we were very sharp and focused. We did what we had to do to win this game, and we did what we need to do to win these kinds of games in this environment. If we want to become a very good team, we have to win games like this, so I am very happy for the team.”
On rebounding from the game on Wednesday:
“We took many positive things from Wednesday, it obviously wasn’t the result that we wanted, but we came here with the same mentality, just play in a way to be focused, be together, try to work, and we fought to the end. We did the same in Montreal but we couldn’t hold the result last minute, so there were a lot of positive things and I am really happy for the team.”
On winning before the break:
“Knowing what we did today, we have to come after the break with the same mentality, with the same willingness to go and commit to become a good team. This is the halfway point of the season, but nothing is going to be OK if we just take everything we have done up to this moment and throw it away. We need to keep moving forward, we need to keep moving to the level that we want to be at and everybody knows that. Everybody obviously is going to take a rest, we had too many games and we need that break and it is going to help us charge our batteries for the last part of the season.”
On having zero shots on goal:
“I don’t think it was from a lack of effort, we should have shot a few more times. They did a good job, got a lot of players behind the ball, made it tough in and around the penalty area to their credit.”
On tonight’s match:
“Conceding that goal in the first half, it was tailor made for their team. The way they play, and with their speed on the counter, and we gave away a ball in our middle third of the field and they got a goal. They certainly did a very good job having good numbers behind the ball, and countering us in the second half. We had some chances to have a little bit better quality, perhaps create a few dangerous chances, but we fell short.”
On Vancouver’s centre of defence:
“They played well. Obviously they are very good in the air and they dominated us there. We weren’t good enough on the ball to play around them.”
On Robbie Keane’s fitness:
“Well he is just coming back from being away for two months. I think we’re doing the best we can; it’s been a little bit of a patchwork job in the first half of the season. That’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it goes. No excuses, but we’re a little bit short handed in a lot of the spots on the field and it shows with some of our quality. He’d probably tell you that the last 20 minutes were pretty rough for him. We had to be aggressive with our substitutions to try and get a goal. I decided to keep Robbie out there. It might have been a little too much for him, but it’s probably good for him to get the 90 minutes in.”
On Kekuta Manneh:
“He was pretty much their dangerous player in the first half. A couple times, he burned us and we got caught on the goal. He is a good player. Perhaps we could have been a little bit better on a few of those plays. We stopped him a couple times, but the goal, give him credit. He did well to get the goal.”
On having zero shots on goal:
“We didn’t play obviously as well as we had too. They played well, give them credit. The game plan’s to stop the balls in the middle. Go through the middle. They defended well so full credit to them, they deserved to win the game”
“They have pace. When you’ve got pace like that, it very hard for defenders. Especially with someone who is quick with the ball. It’s hard to defend against so they did that very well.”
On inconsistent season:
“We’re still in there, so it’s no crisis. We’re inconsistent, but we’re still there in the pack which is the most important considering the inconsistency that we’ve been playing. So as long as we’re there, and everybody gets fit, more minutes that people get on the field, and all the players that come in, I think you’ll see a different Galaxy side. But full credit to the players that have been working their socks off, it’s been a difficult few months. But the players are showing a lot of character. Even tonight, we kept pushing and pushing to get that goal, it didn’t happen. Naturally, when you do that, of course they are going to get chances on the counterattack.”
On losing against Vancouver twice this season:
“I thought they were very organized. I though tonight they played very well. They came here with a set tactic and they played it very well where they got everyone behind the ball. They clogged holes, we couldn’t find Robbie [Keane], we couldn’t find Edson [Buddle], and we were just going side trying to open them up but they shifted as a team very well and didn’t allow us to break them up too much. Unlucky on a pass and [Kekuta] Manneh picks it up and just takes off and I tried to take him to the outside and he just cut inside really quickly and got a shot off and that’s how that goal happened.”
On Kekuta Manneh’s play:
“I know he likes to cut inside so I made sure to take him outside and close the angle but there was a time where he was more central so I was vulnerable to both sides and I allowed him to cut inside a bit more and that’s why he was able to get open on that shot.”
On whether Manneh is the fastest player in MLS:
“[He is] definitely one of them. He is up there with [Fabian] Castillo, fast with the ball. There’s a few guys in this league who are very fast without the ball and also with the ball and those guys are very dangerous.”
On Vancouver’s counter attacks in second half:
“The reason why they got so many counter attacks later in the second half is because we’re just going for broke. It’s either going to be 1-1, or 3-0. We wanted to tie the game so we have to take chances and we took chances by sending players forward and we just kept on losing the ball. We didn’t have the quality up front tonight and so we kept on coughing it up and they kept on going on counters. It’s a tale of us not being sharp enough and them making the most of our mistakes.”
On getting no shots on goal tonight:
“Obviously we had a tough one. I think it was a long month of May. Maybe guys were a bit tired and we just have to bounce back, I know we will, and it’s going to be a tough game in Columbus. Long travel and we just have to bite down and just grind another win.”
“I know that they were going to play on the counter, and they did. They didn’t have many chances in the game, but they got the goal and that’s all that counts in this game. They are very, very tight. Especially in the center of the field; they are playing with a tight back four and then two guys sitting in front. It made it really hard to find our strikers and really get any possession centrally on their field. We didn’t play the ball fast enough to the wings and we didn’t cross it early enough. Especially in the first half, we played a little bit too slow. We played better in the second half and penetrated them a little, and we did have chances even though we didn’t have any shots on goal, we did have our chances. With a little bit more luck, we could have scored, and maybe even gone for a second goal. But I give credit to them; they played a good game and tactically very smart.”
On tonight’s match:
“I thought we did well the second half. We switched it, and we had a couple of crosses. But obviously sometimes you can’t just cross it in the area because they have two big men there centrally. [Kendall] Waston and [Pa-Modou] Kah are big guys who are really good at heading the ball. But I thought we had a couple of good chances and Ignacio beat his man a couple of times, went down the line. I did a combination plays with Keane a couple of times, and I went around my guy a couple of times. We were a lot more dangerous the second half.”