Vancouver Whitecaps finally got their 2015 season off and running with a 1-0 win away at Chicago Fire after another attacking display that still saw a number of missed chances but the ‘Caps got the vital goal that mattered from Octavio Rivero with four minutes of the game remaining.
We bring you our report from the game and post-game reaction from both locker rooms.
And you can scratch Chicago off the list of places that Vancouver Whitecaps haven’t got a MLS win.
It’s taken them four attempts but not only did the ‘Caps grab their first ever goal in the Windy City, Octavio Rivero’s 86th minute strike saw them notch their first win against Chicago and of the new MLS season, after an entertaining game that saw both teams have numerous chances that neither could convert.
Vancouver made just the one change to the starting line-up that lost 3-1 to Toronto last week, with young Canadian Sam Adekugbe coming in at left back in place of veteran Jordan Harvey. Both Whitecaps fullbacks had games to forget last week and this was a real chance for Adekugbe to come in and make a name and case for himself as a starter.
Chicago made four changes to the team that went down 2-0 at LA last Friday, as Frank Yallop’s new look side still tried to find their feet.
Vancouver took the game to Chicago early and their pace, and particularly that of Kekuta Manneh, looked to be causing the Fire defence a whole heap of problems.
As the Whitecaps pressed, Pedro Morales had the first real chance of the match in the 10th when Manneh cut the ball back to him just inside the box but the Chilean playmaker blasted wildly over.
Vancouver hearts were in their mouths moments later when Chicago’s Michael Stephens went down in the box unchallenged, but referee Fotis Bazakos saw through the simulation.
The game was quite open and being played at a high tempo and the ‘Caps really should have made it 1-0 in the 20th minute when Manneh fired a shot across goal but just too hard for Octavio Rivero to get on the end of with the goal gaping.
But as strong as Vancouver were looking, Chicago nearly grabbed the opening goal in the 24th minute when Steven Beitashour was drawn into the middle, allowing Quincy Amarikwa to slip in Joevin Jones, but David Ousted stood tall to make an important leg save and keep the scores level.
The Fire had another chance moments later when a free kick was cut back to Shaun Maloney on the edge of the box and his goalbound effort was deflected over by Adekugbe.
Chicago were now in the ascendency with Vancouver once again showing little variety in attack apart from bursts of speed, which were having less and less success.
Ousted was called upon again in the 37th minute when Stephens slipped in Harry Shipp and the Dane came up big at his near post to turn it around for another corner.
The Whitecaps responded though and once again their threat came from Manneh, who saw his shot parried by Jon Busch in the Fire goal but the Gambian just couldn’t get space to bring down the rebound and get off a decent follow up shot.
Vancouver suffered a blow just before the break when Mauro Rosales seemed to twist his leg after being brought down and Nicolas Mezquida came on to replace him.
Then with the last action of the first half, Vancouver should have grabbed the opener. Rivero played in Morales, as the Fire defence looked for offside, but the ‘Caps captain continued to look a little off with his shooting and curled his effort wide.
It was an entertaining, if scoreless, first half and both sides will have gone in feeling that the game was theirs to win in the second.
Vancouver were the team to start the second half strong with Morales having a free kick curler, followed by a run by Rivero that saw a shot drilled low at Busch.
The Uruguayan striker was getting closer to breaking the deadlock and when a Morales corner broke to him in the box he curled a shot just wide of the post in the 54th minute.
Mezquida was the next Whitecap to get a chance when he ran in on goal but as his angle tightened, his shot was straight at Busch.
The two Uruguayans were linking up nicely and Mezquida had the next opportunity to break the deadlock in the 71st minute when he raced through on goal, stayed on his feet after being clipped by Adailton on the edge of the box, and managed to get the ball out of the hands and round Busch before firing into the side netting from a tight angle.
Moments later Rivero was next to race on goal from a quick break on the counter. Mezquida played him in but with just Busch to beat the bobbly pitch and the pressure of a Fire defender seemed enough to put him off and he fired wildly past the right post.
After a few more half chances it was starting to look like Vancouver would be left still searching for their first ever goal in Chicago, but with time running out, the Whitecaps finally got the breakthrough their play deserved, and it came from Rivero.
Steven Beitashour latched on to a horrendous attempted clearance by Lovell Palmer on the edge of the six yard box and cut the ball back to Rivero who saw a gaping space in the Chicago goal to fire home from 12 yards out.
The goal was coming all game and when it finally did it gave Chicago no way back and Vancouver saw out the remaining minutes with ease.
It was a performance that delivered a lot of highs in the way that Vancouver launched wave after wave of attack, but still some lows in the inability to finish more than just one of the chances created. The clean sheet was much needed for an under fire defence and Sam Adekugbe looks like he’s secured the left back spot going forward, at least for now.
The electrifying attack that Vancouver has shown in both of their so far looks like they could give a team a right hammering at some point this season, once they finally click into full gear. Assuming they do.
Orlando is now next up and as a team that likes to go forward, that could play perfectly into Vancouver’s counter attacking style on the road. Could be a cracker.
FINAL SCORE: Chicago Fire 0 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps
CHICAGO: Jon Busch; Eric Gehrig, Jeff Larentowicz, Adailton, Lovel Palmer; Matt Polster (Kennedy Igboananike 58), Michael Stephens (Alex 82), Shaun Maloney, Harry Shipp, Joevin Jones; Quincy Amarikwa (Guly 76) [Subs Not Used: Alec Kann, Greg Cochrane, Matt Watson, Chris Ritter]
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Steven Beitashour, Kendall Waston, Pa Modou Kah, Sam Adekugbe; Matias Laba, Russell Teibert, Mauro Rosales (Nicolas Mezquida 45+2), Pedro Morales (Gershon Koffie 88), Kekuta Manneh (Darren Mattocks 82); Octavio Rivero [Subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Jordan Harvey, Diego Rodriguez, Erik Hurtado]
On the match:
“Lively. Interesting, as I always say. A very good, hard fought victory for us against a good team.”
On breaking the stalemate near the end of the match:
“Two teams going for the win tonight. It was an open game. I think everyone knows the way we play. Obviously you see the way Frank ‘s [Yallop] bringing new players in, the way he wants to play as well. I thought one goal was going to win it, especially in the second half with the game opened up; a little too much for my liking. But I knew we had the players that could hurt them on the break and after missing a number of clear cut chances, fortunately we were able to get Octavio [Rivero] was able to tap one away.”
On the goal:
“I think if you put yourself in the right positions, for a number of times throughout the game, and do the basics on the defensive side, you get your own luck. Last week we didn’t get any luck, even though we played very well against Toronto for 45 minutes, today we got a little break on the goal. I think we fully deserved it. To get 17, 18 attempts on goal away from home was a thoroughly professional performance.”
On Octavio Rivero’s play before his goal:
“He does do [the little things]. I see it day in, day out. I still think he has room for improvement. He had a number of chances today, as did Pedro [Morales]. The reason we brought him in was to try to edge those close games. Today was a close game and fortunately he showed a calm manner. He was calm and he put it on back plate.”
On all the misses that have piled up during the past two games, does it cause concern:
“That’s brilliant. I’ll go even greyer next game. Yes, no doubt. I want to keep creating chances. If we create chances, we will score. Today we scored, last week we didn’t score enough goals, but we have to keep creating chances and hopefully we’ll take some.”
On the injury to Rosales:
“He’s got a very bad ankle. At the time I thought it was a difficult challenge, and to be fair to the referee, he apologized after the game. He thinks that his ankle got caught in the grass and there was a little bit of force on it. Until I see it again, I can’t comment. To be fair to the referee, he sends his regards to Mauro. I think we’re going to miss him for a period of time. I don’t think Palmer meant to do it. I know Lovel, and he’s not like that. He’s an aggressive player but Mauro’s ankle was caught in it.”
On Sam Adekugbe starting tonight:
“I thought he was excellent. I really did. He is a different type of player compared to Jordan [Harvey]. Jordan’s a warrior for me. I just wanted to give Jordan a break from the team, with all the CBA negotiations going on with that lot. My outlook on my team of players is, when the young players show enough to me that they are ready for a chance, I want to give them that little character. Sam deserved it based on his performance in preseason, and was rewarded today. I want to give Jordan credit, because his attitude and application was fantastic, even though he didn’t play. That’s what we need. We need players like that in the locker room.”
On the importance of getting three points today:
“It’s important. They deserve it. We played very well for 45 minutes against Toronto. And even the second 45 we did okay. Today I think we were a little open at times but it was exciting to watch. That is the reward. You do the rubbish jobs, the little, nitty-gritty jobs well, you get your rewards. We had our rewards with a number of chances, and managed to get a goal.”
On the game:
“I’m happy about winning, and it was an important goal for me.”
On whether Vancouver deserved to win:
“Yes, we deserved to win. We battled on the field, and had a better game, so we deserved to win.”
On his goal celebration with his shin guard:
“My shin guard is important for me. It has a message on it. The celebration was to thank the message on the guard.”
On what the message is:
“It represents my family. There is a picture of my girlfriend and words that represent that.”
How important was it to win today after the loss last week:
“It was crucial for us to win today. The first loss we had too many mistakes in the first game so it was important that we got the win.”
On the match:
“It was a back and forth game, especially in the second half. It was a wave and a wave of attack both ways. I thought we created a lot of chances that we probably could have scored a few more.”
On the team’s clean sheet:
“Fantastic. We had a clean sheet and got three points. The guys did really well, not just the back four but midfield put in a lot of hard work.”
On his feeling whether it would end a 0-0 stalemate:
“No. I thought we were going to get it. I know the guys up front were working really hard. We were creating the chances. I thought it was a matter of time before we get our goal.”
On matching up against Orlando:
“Another tough game. I think we showed today our mentality was spot on. We need to bring that mentality and hard work to Orlando if we want to get points there.”
On the team getting its first goal in Chicago:
“Yes, happy to get a goal. I thought we could have had a few more. We did create a lot of chances. Credit to Jon [Busch] on his end for doing a lot of good work.”
On playing a balanced game:
“I think we showed we can battle it out for 90 minutes. These road games are going to be a grind, and it’s important that we battle it out. I think with regards to our line-up, we will need everyone. We saw when Mauro went down, Nico [Mezquida] did really well. Sam was in today. We’re going to need everyone.”
On bouncing back against the loss versus Toronto:
“It was good to bounce back. We said all along it was only one game and we didn’t like losing it. And we are back with a win.”
On the match:
“Obviously not the result that we wanted from the opening night, but I thought progress wise and performance wise I thought we played some decent stuff against a team that plays a counter-attacking style that’s very quick and have players that can hurt you on the break. I thought the game was pretty open, especially in the second half, with both teams creating some decent chances and they took the one that came along their way. I think football wise I was pleased with the ball movement, not throughout the whole game obviously, I thought we fell off a bit at the end, but in general I thought we had at least enough chances to score a goal, and I think that maybe a tie would’ve been a fair result for us.”
On the formation:
“Well, if we’re too rigid, you’ll say something. For now, we’ve got fluid movement and that’s what we’re trying to do, to unbalance the team we are playing against. It’s not just going out there and standing in their spots, I want them to move around, get on the ball, be active, and do all those things. It’s not tactical at all. Maybe you saw something different.”
On Jon Busch
“Jon did great, no problems at all. That’s why we have him, why he joined us. He did very well, very capable player, good locker room guy. I thought he had a good performance for sure.”
On the lack of scoring
“Yeah, good question. We always want to try and score goals, we’re trying to. I think it was the finishing rather than the actual play building up to the chances that we had. I think JJ should’ve scored first half, he had a good chance. Michael Stephens should’ve done better, but again, you can’t make guys finish chances, just got to create them and keep believing that we’re going to score. Obviously it’s a work in progress with what we are doing and trying to stay confident, stay positive with everything we’re trying to do. I think a lot of times scoring comes when you are confident as a team and you can play for 90 minutes, and I think that’s still to come.”
On the decision to start Kennedy Igoananike on the bench:
“He had a bit of cramp in the game, didn’t train for a couple days last week, and I just decided I wanted to see how Harry and Shaun worked below Quincy in that sort of triangle, if you like, so it’s tactical, but again, just an eye on him getting used to it. I had a good chat with him, some of the guys that join the league, it’s not an easy league to get in, sometimes you can slide them in a few times as a sub. I feel like he looked really bright for ten or fifteen minutes when he came on the field, and again, it’s not an easy process. I think the system we started with; we possessed the ball well, which is a good start for us.”
On playing Harry Shipp and Shaun Maloney together:
“Good, I mean we sort of run out of a little bit of gas, I thought. We put a lot into the game, and kind of run out, not of ideas, but kind of a little bit of gas towards the end, in the final third, especially late in the game. When you put the subs on you hope that they can continue the momentum of the team, and go out and see the game out and win the game for us, but it didn’t quite happen.”
On trying to play attractive soccer:
“I thought we played well enough to get at least get a goal in the game. I think that the way we went about it, it wasn’t a defensive posture or set up, or our formation. It’s just up to the players to then really take on board and enjoy themselves in their role, and I think they tried to , we tried to do the right things, I felt. We had good moments in the game where another day we could’ve scored and then get going in our game. I think for a first game we weren’t terrible, we weren’t great, probably performance wise maybe 6 out of ten, but obviously we didn’t win the game, and that’s what we’re here to do. I’m disappointed with the result for sure, positives in some parts of the performance and then we got to work on staying connected as a group and not getting counter attacked late in the game. That’s what happened in the game, I thought.”
On moving Jeff Larentowicz up in the second half:
“Matt had a yellow card and the referee kept warning him next foul was going to be a yellow and then a red so we took him off as a precaution so someone didn’t get a red card. Basically, I thought Matt was playing well for us in his first game for us, his first start, I should say. Shame that he got a yellow card in the first two minutes of the match.”
On Matt Polster’s performance:
“I thought he did well, I thought that it’s never easy to play well with a yellow card for basically the rest of the game; I think he got it after 3 minutes. I was pleased with him, I think that he didn’t freeze, I thought he enjoyed the game, I thought that he was influential in a lot of the stuff we did well. So, it was good start for him, I thought he did fine.”
On Eric Gehrig’s performance:
“Yeah well just with Matt coming out the natural one for me was JJ bringing back to his natural left back spot, and put Lovel in right back, and then Eric has played in the middle, not with Adailton but has played in the middle in our first game, and has played in the middle in preseason. No issues with him playing there I just think we were 1v1 a lot when we were pushed forward and getting caught on the counter attack and then just 1v1 on the edge of the box and its difficult, it’s difficult to handle quick players like they have.”
On Shaun Maloney’s performance:
“Well, it’s the same thing we just talked about, he himself has got to get him into the mode of playing well, I saw moments today, I think he started to get into it , some interchange of passes with Harry and Quincy, just not long enough though, not long enough spells of it. He’ll grow into his role, and make sure that he’s influential for the 90 minutes that he plays. I think that again, I don’t make excuses for anybody, I want him to make sure he knows that it’s a difficult league to play in, with new teammates, and we just got to keep going, keep plugging away, and try to play the way we want to play and get results now, moving forward.”
On Lovel Palmer’s clearance that lead to Vancouver’s goal:
“Yeah, I’ve seen it. Yeah, he should either guide it out for a corner kick or head it out back away from the goal area, for sure.”
On opening the home schedule with a loss:
“It’s unfortunate. I think it’s more frustrating than last week because we actually played pretty well. We were able to keep the ball, especially in the first 60 to 70 minutes of the game. We created some chances that we should’ve put away; that’s on us. We’re not going to make excuses about it. As hard as it is to swallow giving up a goal in the last 10 minutes, there’s definitely stuff to build on from the first 65 or 70 minutes.”
On attracting more fans:
“It’s on us to attract fans. When we start winning games, they’ll come. That’s our goal, and that’s what we’re trying to work on towards the middle and end of this year.”
On the progress of the Fire attack:
“We’re still missing pieces, and we’re still getting used to the pieces that we do have. We basically have a whole new set of guys, guys working in different positions still trying things out, so I think that will come. We have enough creative guys on the field to create chances; once you start scoring goals, it’s just mentality. We’ll be all right.”
On playing alongside midfielder Shaun Maloney:
““Today, especially, was fun. We interchanged in the middle; we were both on the left and right, overloaded sides, and were able to keep the ball in the middle a lot, which is something we didn’t do against the Galaxy. I think that’s something to build on going forward. He’s definitely a fun guy to play with, so I look forward to that.”
On changing the narrative from last season:
“I think we desperately need a win, but we also have the personalities that, no matter what happens, are going to keep cool. Like I said, this is something to build on; we’re going to take the positives out of this game and work towards next weekend. I think it’s frustrating coming off last year, but it’s only two games out of thirty-four. If you look at a team like New England last year, they were full of runs; if we get on a hot streak and win a few games in a row, I think we’ll be fine.”
On Vancouver’s lone goal:
“They got down the side, whipped it in; [Lovel] Palmer gets good contact on it, unfortunately his header goes directly to [Steven] Beitashour. Beitashour controls it, looks up, plays it back across to a guy running in.”
On Chicago Fire defence:
“I think we have some very talented players. For the most part, we were very organized. They’re a very skillful attacking team, they’re a big counter-attack team, they’ve got a lot of pace, they have some explosive guys. I think they did a great job in front of me. We’re all disappointed about that: 5 minutes left in the game, we need to get out of there 0-0. That’s what was on the table. I know we were pushing to get the goal, rightfully so, we’re at home; but we also need to be smart on the backside, and not keep blowing up, because that hurts in the last 5 minutes. If you get out of there 0-0, then you at least get the clean sheet.”
On the mood after the game:
“It’s very disappointing at the moment. I thought for the first hour of the game, we played as well as we did during preseason; it’s just disappointing the way the last half hour went. But we have to regroup and come again for next weekend.”
On his personal performance:
“I think it was pretty similar to the team: for the first hour, I was fit for the game. The last half hour, I certainly could have done better. The first hour or so, myself and the team were putting on a decent game. Unfortunately, the game completely opened up, and we got done on the break.”
On the expectations on attack:
“I think we should have scored. From the amount of chances we created, I think we should have scored at least one or two in this game. I think we just need to be more clinical. I think our goalkeeper had a pretty good game, but we need to be more clinical in the final third.”
On attacking creativity:
“There were spells, but I think we want to improve. I think we were better than we were in the LA game the first hour of this game, but we still have lots of improvement to do to get closer to the teams at the top end of these conferences.”
On the change from first to second half:
“I think we just controlled the game. Even still, Vancouver had a couple chances on the breakaway. But were pretty solid, we were controlling possession. Then the start of the second half was pretty even; the last half hour, the game just completely opened up. I think one side was going to win it with one goal on the breakaway; but I think we should be a lot tighter than that.”
On being happy with tactical positioning:
“Yes, in the first half, I was very happy. With the tactical change in the second half, I was a little bit deeper. But I’m happy wherever the manager wants me to play.”