Home may very well be where the heart is, but it’s not been the happiest of hunting grounds for Vancouver Whitecaps this season and it continued against Sporting Kansas City on Sunday evening.
While their away form has been excellent, with six wins and 19 points taken so far from their travels, the ‘Caps had four wins, three losses and a draw at BC Place heading in to this one.
Make that four losses now, as once again the ‘Caps created chance after chance in an explosive opening period in the first half, before running out of ideas and pace and falling into a game that suited the visitors to perfection.
In the end, it was as much sloppy defending as missed chances that cost the ‘Caps dear and the 1-0 will sting for a while, as once again Vancouver blew the chance to increase their lead at the top of the table with other results going their way. Instead they now find themselves in one hell of a scary logjam in the West.
Here’s our report and postgame reaction from both locker rooms.
It was far from a happy homecoming for Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place on Sunday evening as the ‘Caps home woes continued with a tough 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City.
Kevin Ellis’ 52nd minute header was the difference between the two teams in the end, but Vancouver should have been out of sight by half time and that will hurt that little bit longer.
With Pedro Morales missing his fourth straight game with a calf injury, Mauro Rosales continued in the number 10 role and he was at the centre of all the Whitecaps attacks in the early going.
Rosales played a short pass to Octavio Rivero in the 8th minute, but the Argentine’s long range shot flew over. The pair combined again when Rivero rose to get on the end of a cross and had Tim Melia scrambling in the KC goal.
Cristian Techera then had a chance from a Rosales corner, but Melia came up with another save to keep his team in the game.
KC had a chance of their own in the 10th minute but Benny Feilhaber snatched at his shot and pulled it wide left.
The ‘Caps were right back at it and Melia quickly closed down Kekuta Manneh to block his shot for a corner.
Vancouver kept the pressure winning another corner and rookie Tim Parker, in for the injured Pa Modou Kah, met it superbly but his powerful header was cleared off the line by Feilhaber.
The pace finally dipped and you wondered if the Whitecaps would come to rue the amount of missed chances they’d had.
The action dipped considerably and KC came more into the match.
Krisztian Nemeth did well to make space in the 35th minute but his dangerous ball across goal had no takers.
Techera did well to go on a run and create a position to shoot, but he fired wildly over from 25 yards out with six minutes of the half remaining.
Vancouver’s pace was still pulling Kansas City all over the pitch but the final ball was lacking and chances were proving more difficult to come by.
KC were rarely threatening the home goal, but the ‘Caps seemed like they needed to regroup and find another way through as the teams heading in at the half level and scoreless.
With the pace of the game now playing into the visitors hands, they took the lead in the 52nd minute after penning Vancouver into their own half for a spell.
After failing to clear the danger, Nemeth floated in a dangerous cross and Kevin Ellis rose to head home between Waston and Parker.
KC nearly made it two six minutes later when Nemeth crashed a fierce low strike off the right post and Jacob Peterson pulled the rebound inches wide.
The ‘Caps came close to the equaliser in the 62nd minute when Rivero played in Techera but with little angle, his shot cannoned off the legs of Melia and then the chest of Matt Besler, before being cleared off the goalline by Amadou Dia.
David Ousted hadn’t had that much to do but was called into action in the 70th minute, turning a Peterson effort around the post for a corner.
The ‘Caps were pushing for the equaliser and Techera nearly found it with 14 minutes of the match remaining, but Melia tipped his dipping free kick over.
As Vancouver tried to find any way to get back on level terms, Melia earned KC all three points with a diving save to turn another Parker header around the post in the last minute, after the centre back got on the end of a Rosales free kick into the box.
And that was it. KC held on reasonably comfortably for all three points and close to within two points of Vancouver now with three games in hand. The ‘Caps are now brought back into an ever tightening Western Conference playoff race, where a run of one or two bad results can prove very damaging.
With two straight defeats now, Vancouver need that run to end quickly, but with a trip to Portland next up on Saturday, that’s going to be easier said than done.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 0 – 1 Sporting Kansas City
ATT: 21,000 (sell out)
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Steven Beitashour (Robert Earnshaw 84), Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Jordan Harvey; Matias Laba, Gershon Koffie (Deybi Flores 60), Cristian Techera, Mauro Rosales, Kekuta Manneh (Erik Hurtado 80); Octavio Rivero [Subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Cristian Dean, Nicolas Mezquida, Kianz Froese]
KANSAS CITY: Tim Melia; Saad Abdul-Salaam, Kevin Ellis, Matt Besler, Amadou Dia; Soni Mustivar, Jacob Peterson (Connor Hallisey 83), Benny Feilhaber, Roger Espinoza, Krisztian Nemeth, Dom Dwyer [Subs Not Used: Jon Kempin, Erik Palmer-Brown, Paulo Nagamura, Servando Carrasco, Jimmy Medranda]
Thoughts on the match:
“It hurts, yes. It’s one of them where you create a lot of chances and don’t score. And sometimes it comes back to bite you in the bum. And it did today, unfortunately.”
Thoughts on the pace of the match and how it suited Sporting Kansas City:
“It did. I think from the first minute, they wanted to play at that pace. I think they did and I think they were allowed to do it, which shouldn’t be allowed. But they were, and credit to them today, because they weathered the storm, especially in the first 45 minutes. Then, when you don’t take a chance, you are open to a half-chance. That was a great ball by the boy Nemeth, and Ellis got in between my two centre backs and scored, really with the first clear cut chance of the game. The dynamics of the game changed but the game playing continued, and slowness and things like that. It is was it is. It’s a tough one to swallow today.”
Thoughts on the battle between Kendall Waston and Dom Dyer:
“Both good players. Both super professionals. I don’t think it was handled correctly, but they are both good players. Both decided to play a certain way, which is both correct and both wrong. But it wasn’t handled correctly.”
On whether the last two goals Whitecaps FC conceded is attributed to the left side not closing in:
“No. If you give any player in this league a little bit of time, they can put balls on sixpences. We have a number of those players. [Kansas City] had a number of those players. Today, they took a chance they had come into the box. Credit to them. Sometimes when you lose, it’s easy to blame people and it’s easy to blame things. I won’t blame my team, I’ll take responsibility today for my team’s performance. But there are other factors; we conceded a bad goal, they take the three points.”
On the missed opportunity to pass Portland and Seattle in the MLS standings:
“Do you think that Portland journalists and Seattle journalists ask the same question to Ziggy and Caleb? Sure they do. It’s going to be nip and tuck between now and the end of the year, without a doubt. As I said to you, we’re still building. We know where we are. We need to be better. I need to be better. We will be better. A lot of things need to be better after today.”
Thoughts on Tim Parker’s match:
“I hated the goal. I said, I don’t like goals conceded but Tim played very very well today. He had two headers that could have scored two goals for us. He didn’t, and credit to them, they had a ball on the line and the keeper made a fantastic save. But, he got in between our two centre-backs, so if you do that and you’re of quality and you have movement in the box, which they did have, sometimes there is nothing you can do. I don’t think it’s one individual. Any goal that you evaluate, you can always blame two or three people if you wanted to blame two or three people. But I don’t blame people, I’ll blame myself.”
Thoughts on the midfield battle between Espinoza/Feilhaber and Laba/Koffie:
“Well, every game is won or lost in midfield and I think they came out on top, deservedly so. I think they were a little bit better than us in midfield today. In the first half it was a great game to watch. It really was; end-to-end and chances. Our attacking play was probably disguised a little bit, but in the second half, they got a grip of it. They controlled the tempo, which is why I tried to change it up a little bit and it didn’t quite work.”
Thoughts on the number of chances and not being able to convert them:
“Not as concerning as I would be if we didn’t create one chance in the first half, because the game is about taking your chances. When you cross that white line, whoever comes and takes a chance and scores, usually wins the game. Today, we had a number of chances, we didn’t take them. Kansas City had a number of chances and they took one of their chances. I’m concerned because we lost, but I’m not concerned because we’re creating chances and we need to take them, we need to be better at that. I told the group in there, you can’t keep playing well in games and not taking chances. And we did today.”
On whether a striker is need in the summer transfer window:
“We’re always looking to strengthen. Other teams are strengthening around the league, you see that. We’ll continue to try and look if we can do it, then we certainly will. I think we need to. If we’re able to so it’s something that’s an ongoing process for us. If we win 1-0 today, then goals isn’t a concern. But we lost 1-0 today, so goals is a concern. We just have to take it on the chin. We have a great game next week against our friends down the road. So we’ll get prepared for that and give that one a go.”
Thoughts on chances lost in the game:
“I think this was the reason we couldn’t get the three points. We should score in the first half having created at least six or seven chances to score a goal. We didn’t come with the right mentality in the second half and allowed them to score. They made everything difficult for us to come back from. KC is a good team, a tough team. We controlled the whole game but we didn’t get the three points. We have to keep working. Take away the positive things about this game. I think it was a very good game. Second half, taking away the goal, we keep pushing. I’m disappointed that we couldn’t get at least a point.”
Thoughts on slower speed of the game in the second half:
“I think we were tested well in the last couple of games playing on the road. Actually they were smart to slow down the game, to take time and make a lot of fouls. Ref carded the players for most of the game but they had the goal up so they could do it. Fair enough.”
Thoughts on the game:
“Well it was a hard one. We play well, had a lot of chances in the first half. We didn’t get to score. Second half – we didn’t start with the same intensity. They get one goal so everything changed from there. Now we have a next game on Saturday in Portland. This match must give us more courage to strengthen those things that we didn’t do well this day.”
Thoughts on battle with Dom Dwyer:
“Nothing. It was just football. It was a normal battle. It was good because he fight for his team and I fight for mine. At the end of the game we shook hands and everything stayed on the pitch.”
Thoughts on the goal:
“It was a clearance and we weren’t tight enough with our guys. I think it was two against three. You know these things are hard. With us we don’t want to blame anybody. Maybe if I was one step forward but you know this is like that.”
Thoughts on Seattle and Portland losing but not taking advantage:
“Yes we knew that those teams lose and if we had won today we would have had more points on top. This team is about fighting every time. Last season we did it at the end. Hopefully this season we don’t do the same. We want to be in the playoff before anything [at the] end.”
Thoughts on home record at BC Place:
“Sometimes football is not fair. Sometimes you play ugly and you win, sometimes you play nice and you lose. I prefer to play very ugly and win all the games.”
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Thoughts on the match:
“I think it’s a big three points because we have a tremendous amount of respect for the Whitecaps. They are probably the top team in the league at the moment, in the way that they play and the different weapons that they have. I think they are very different from front to back, they’re an excellent team. For us it’s a big three points because of the team we just played and being able to come here. They were the better team, they had better chances if you will and hustled a little bit more, but in the second half we were the better team. We were fortunate to get the goal but I think they are a top team in this league.”
Team gaining confidence with three wins in a row in all competitions:
“Confidence and winning always come hand in hand and it’s obviously an important aspect. The thing is though is sometimes, and I think in this league that quite often with a couple of teams, they don’t value why they are having a few wins in a row and they start to take their foot off the gas pedal and I think every team needs to be aware of that and it’s something we need to do as well. This league is very tough, and it doesn’t really matter who you play on the weekend because there is so much parity, anybody can beat anybody, that’s why it’s important wherever you play, you’re on top of your game and the biggest thing you have to give is effort. As much as it’s good and it’s good for your confidence, it doesn’t really do much for us in the next game because we have to start all over again.”
Is a rivalry brewing?:
“Yeah every point matters to all of us. Whether you are playing this team again next week or not, it’s a rival now, and I say it’s a rival now because it’s a conference team. These games are very important to us, try to get some points from those games against our rivals, conference teams.”
Second goal of the season proves to be the difference:
“It was a good ball from Krisztian and he put in a spot where only I could get it, so he made it really easy for me to get up and get it.”
Thoughts on tonight’s defence and on containing the Vancouver Whitecaps offence:
“Going in we knew it was going to be a battle up top. Our right back Saad, he was the difference for in the game. He shut down Manneh and I was tight to him, he did exactly what we talked about and what we needed him to do. Credit to [Saad], man of the match for me.”
Thoughts on the match:
“It’s big getting three points on the road, we came in here very focused. Vancouver is top of the table right now. Tough place to play, they haven’t played here in quite a while and came out with a lot of energy and I thought we did a pretty good job weathering the storm in the first half and played better soccer in the second half. We are happy for the three points.”
On strategy against Matias Laba:
“I think Laba is a fantastic defensive midfielder in this league, one of the best. He made it tough, I didn’t find as much of the game as I would’ve liked but, it was a gritty game in the midfield. I think it was a good battle between our three guys and their three, I think one or two plays there made a difference. Proud of all the guys and ecstatic with the three points.”
Thoughts on team confidence:
“It’s fantastic, obviously our confidence is high right now, we feel pretty good about playing at home then on the road and grabbing points. One thing for us, we have a lot of games in hand on a lot of teams but, those don’t mean anything if we cannot get the results. We made of point of coming here and telling everything guy that look, we’ve got to get it done, we’ve got to keep moving up the table. We’re in sixth right now and crawling up the table, with getting points in the games we have in hand will make the difference.”