A team winless in seven, and struggling to make the playoffs, at home to a team unbeaten in nine, and still with hopes of the Supporters’ Shield. There could only be one result, right?
Damn right, especially when one team couldn’t hit a barn door from a yard away.
New York Red Bulls extended their unbeaten run to ten matches with a 1-0 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place on Saturday afternoon. Bradley Wright-Phillips’ 50th minute goal did the damage, but it certainly didn’t, and shouldn’t, have to be that way, with the home side having a plethora of chances, most of which were missed by Erik Hurtado.
The fourth year striker had a game to forget, and was left in tears in the locker room afterwards by his performance. We’re not sure how many mirrors he broke in the offseason, but we can only imagine it was a couple of truckloads full.
Down six players to international duty, the Whitecaps had an almost new backline, with Tim Parker partnering Andrew Jacobson in the middle of the defence and Jordan Harvey returning from injury at left back.
The biggest surprise was that despite the success of the 4-4-2 formation in the last two matches, ‘Caps coach Carl Robinson returned to his favoured one striker system, with Hurtado getting the nod. A decision he was soon left to rue.
Cristian Techera had the first real chance of the game 14 minutes in, getting on the end of a long throw out from David Ousted and zeroing in on goal, but he couldn’t really control the ball and get a shot of and ended up falling over in the New York box.
Hurtado had his first of many chances eight minutes later, after a neat little lob from Fraser Aird sent him goalwards but he fired wide left.
Hurtado should have put the Whitecaps one up (we’re thinking of making that a scheduled tweet) twice in the space of a few seconds in the 38th minute. First getting on to a great through ball from Teibert, before firing wide right, then getting the better of the New York defence again moments late but firing into the side netting.
Techera neatly beat the offside two minutes before the break, but couldn’t connect on the ball.
That seemed to be the end of the action for the half, but in the dying seconds of stoppage time Carl Robinson found himself sent to the stands by referee Sorin Stoica for what was deemed to be “acting in an irresponsible manner”. It was a ridiculous decision by the most officious official we’ve seen at BC Place in a long time, and that’s saying something.
The second half started in much the same vein as the first, with the Whitecaps speed allowing them to get in behind the Red Bulls defence, and Hurtado having time on the ball before firing wide of the left post this time, just three minutes in.
Another chance, another wasted opportunity, but this time Vancouver were made to pay after a defensive comedy of errors saw the ball break to Wright-Phillips in the box and he coolly fired past David Ousted in the 50th minute to give New York a 1-0 lead.
The ball may have hit off his hand in the build-up, although he didn’t know too much about it, but it was the perfect example of the difference between a team with a proven and clinical goalscorer, and one who doesn’t have anyone capable of stepping up to that role.
Hurtado missed a 72nd minute header, then shot into the side netting four minutes later, as he went on to have seven attempts during the match, with none of them on target. In fact, Vancouver had no shots on target from anyone for the entire game. Shocking stuff from a team fighting for their playoff lives.
Ousted came up with a big save three minutes from time to keep any faint ‘Caps hopes alive, but Hurtado’s deft sidefoot shot in stoppage time which past the post to sum up his, and Vancouver’s, afternoon to perfection.
Another home loss for the Whitecaps and with six games of the season remaining, four of which are against the three teams directly above them in the standings, Vancouver need at least five and likely six wins to give themselves a realistic shot of the playoffs.
For a team where it’s hard to see where the next goal is going to come from, never mind the next win, it’s not looking good.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 0 – 1 New York Red Bulls
ATT: 22,150 (sell out)
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Jordan Smith (Alphonso Davies 79), Tim Parker, Andrew Jacobson, Jordan Harvey; Matias Laba, Russell Teibert, Fraser Aird, Pedro Morales (Nicolas Mezquida 66), Cristian Techera (Masato Kudo 79); Erik Hurtado [Subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Cole Seiler, Brett Levis, Ben McKendry]
NEW YORK: Luis Robles; Chris Duvall, Ronald Zubar, Aurelien Collin, Sal Zizzo; Dax McCarty (Omer Damari 76), Sean Davis; Alex Muyl (Daniel Royer 66), Felipe, Mike Grella (Gonzalo Veron 89); Bradley Wright-Phillips [Subs Not Used: Kyle Reynish, Justin Bilyeu, Damien Perrinelle, Shaun Wright-Phillips]
On if he will appeal his ejection:
“Well I appealed for a throw-in, which was our throw-in, and I got sent off. So I’ll have to read the rules to see what you’re allowed to do and not allowed to do. But I appealed for a throw-in which was our ball, and he sent me off, so there’s your answer.”
Thoughts on the match:
“Well I’m disappointed with the result because obviously we lost a game of football, and how we’ve lost the game of football I do not know. But we have to accept that we’ve lost. I take responsibility for that, as I always do and my players will. But the way they performed was excellent, we just didn’t take any of the numerous chances we had, which is unfortunate because we played against a very good team today and we could’ve and probably should’ve beaten them. But we didn’t, and I think that shows what football’s like. Cruel sometimes, we have numerous chances and we don’t score, and they have one or two and obviously Bradley [Wright-Phillips] scores his goal.”
On missing chances:
“I just said to the guys in there, how do you feel? Tell me what you saw at the end of the game. And they said we’d done everything boss, we give you everything, we created, we just didn’t score. And then it was a mistake at the back, which has cost us. So it’s a microcosm of our season I think. And it is what it is. You can’t sugar coat it, and we won’t. We need to do better.”
On what you say to Erik Hurtado after a night like that:
“He’s distraught in there. He’s in tears the boy. I think anyone who knows Erik knows what a kid he is. He’s a great kid, he’ll work his socks off for you, and he’s missed a number of chances today. What can you say? You’ve just got to, listen, maybe you’ll get one chance next game and you’ll score that chance, because he is having some bad luck at the moment in relation to scoring. We’re having some bad luck. If we take those chances into the next game, I think we’ll score, but it’s easy to say now.”
On whether he has the players to turn the team’s goalscoring woes around:
“I’ve got to keep working with these players. Do we? I have full faith in all the players to make them better on a daily basis and then when they get the opportunities they’ve got to take them. I wish I could score them for them. I can’t. I never used to be able to. It’s easy in training. You see them scoring in training for fun, but when it comes to matchdays it’s a little bit different. We’ll keep working with them, we’ll keep trying to make them better. Confidence is a big thing. But I was proud of them today, even though we didn’t get the result.”
“I lost three points today, so I don’t take any solace If I tried to just talk about the performance and how good we were and how many chances we created, I leave myself open for you to say Robbo, you didn’t win. We didn’t win. There are lots of positives in there. It is a confidence thing. We played with good confidence today, we just didn’t score the goals, which has happened numerous times.”
On the mountain to climb now to make the playoffs:
“It’s a big hill, but Wales is full of hills, so I like going up hills. It’s character…
It’s a good hill but it’s a hill we’ll try and get up, because it’s not over.”
Thoughts on the match:
“I thought first half we were excellent, we absolutely bossed them, we turned them every chance we got, we had chances, we didn’t take them, and that’s the way football goes. They get one chance in the second half, they take it and the momentum shifts. I thought even before that we had another great chance and it’s crucial that first goal in football, it’s massive. If we get that it’s a totally different game. It’s a matter of inches, you know, it goes past the post, they get one chance and they score it. That’s just the way that our season is going right now, but we dust ourselves down and we go again. We have two massive away games next week and obviously a game in the Champions League. Six games to go, we lost one at home means that we need to go and win another one on the road.”
On dropping points:
“Every game you lose is frustrating. We don’t want to go out there and lose any game, especially because the amount of chances we had today, we had enough chances to win two games, I thought to be honest. But right now it’s just not going our way. We’re just not getting that little bit of luck, to get that first goal, I think that’s massive for us, if we get that first goal then we’re at home and the fans are behind us, it’s our game to lose. But we turn off for one second and we give a goal away, but as I said we dust ourselves down and we go again next weekend.”
On Carl getting sent off changing anything:
“Not really, we knew we did enough in the first half, we just didn’t get that goal and we go out in the second half and do the exact same thing and we’ll get more chances and the goal will come. The manager getting sent off, I don’t even really know what happened, I can’t really comment on that, but I thought there were a few decisions that didn’t go our way but that’s football. At the end of the day we thought that we needed to do it for the manager but it just wasn’t our day today and hopefully luck will start turning, will change some of those chances and make them into goals.”
On the match:
“I thought we defended well and made one mistake. We created chances and you know, it just didn’t fall for us.”
On the response after head coach Carl Robinson was ejected:
“I didn’t think it had anything to do with the ejection. I thought the second half we started a bit flat and they punished us. But we responded. I thought of the 90 minutes, we played very well for 80.”
On what the team needs to do to score:
“Continue what we’re doing. It’s not a lack of chances, it’s not a lack of effort, it’s not a lack of anything, it’s just the ball going onto the right side of the post is really what it is.”
On not scoring on chances:
“You just keep going, you know it’s part of the game, it’s going to happen, you know I thought we kept responding well and kept creating more and more and picking each other up.”
On desperation late in the season:
“Desperation, I mean we need points, yes. I wouldn’t call it desperation, it’s urgency and I think we showed it with a lot of effort and a lot of character.”
NEW YORK RED BULLS
Thoughts on the match:
“I thought that we were organized. First half we were a little lucky to get out of that half nil-nil because we turned the ball over in bad spots and it turned into some really good chances for Vancouver and we were a little bit lucky on the day that they weren’t sharper to finish some plays off. But then I thought collectively we, in the second half, that our will and our concentration to make sure that we could find a way to put that game on our terms, and at halftime we said this was a game that we were going to have to win ugly. It was just that kind of day. It was a lot of fouls, very physical, not a real rhythm to the game and that’s the way it’s going to look sometimes. We just had to grind one out and find a way to get a goal. We talked at half that it was going to be a 1-0 victory that we needed, so it was big for us to get a big win on the road and win in that fashion.”
On having a finisher like Bradley Wright-Phillips:
“Even when we talked at half, as frustrating as the first half was and it was physical and it was hard for him to really find any rhythm into the game, I’ve continued to try to challenge him to only need that one chance, and when that one chance comes he’s so alert and his concentration level is so high that he’s just going to bury it. He made that play right out of the half, and obviously a huge goal, and he’s shown that ability this year. He’s shown that ability now to fight through certain moments, to dig out plays. I thought second half he was fantastic. He was just finding a way to gain an edge on every play. With Brad it’s always easy to talk about the goal scoring and now I’m hearing that in three years he’s tied the record for goal scoring in three years. But he just does so many little things to make our team good.”
On where this game ranked on their priority list:
“From a table perspective, very big because it keeps us in the race for first in the East. It keeps us on a roll, which is now 10 straight in the league without a loss, 12 overall. But more importantly I think [is] the fashion in which we did it, the way that we were able to grind out a result. And we’ve played really well on the road in some games, but we’ve walked away with a point or a loss. And so for this game not to be the prettiest game, not to necessarily have a lot of fluidity and be the way that we wanted to be. For us to just find a way was really important, a really important development in our season and it shows a lot of growth.”
On getting the win:
“It was tough. We needed it. Away from home, we all know we haven’t been great. We’ve been getting goals but we’ve been conceding late and it’s been a thorn in our side. Now we’ve managed to grind it out and get a win.”
On the goal:
“I think I remember a long ball, not sure if it came from Aurélien …and to be quite honest I got very lucky – I think there was a few ricochets. And when it broke free I just thought hit the target, try to hit the target. I kind of blacked out, I don’t remember too much, just happy to get a goal and three points on the road.”
On tying the MLS record for most goals in a three year stretch:
“It’s been a up-and-down ride. I know you guys only see on the field, but there’s a lot of things that’s happened in my time here. On the pitch I seem to be getting goals and I can only be thankful to the guys passing me the ball. Hopefully I can get some more while I’m here and just enjoy it while it’s happening.”
On the win:
“Fantastic road win for us. Really ugly game, I don’t think anyone can argue that, but these are games in the past that we would have lost. Obviously I don’t need to talk about how unfortunate we’ve been on the road in terms of giving up late leads. so for us to weather a storm, they missed a couple chances, we almost shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times with bad turnovers and then them counter attacking us, but for us to get a goal in the second half and to see out a 1-0 win without conceding late is a big confidence booster for us and it’s something we certainly needed.”
On Bradley Wright-Phillips:
“Jesse said at halftime, we need to stop hurting ourselves, stop giving them chances off our turnovers and I promise you Brad will get one chance and bury it. And that’s exactly what happened. So we feel very fortunate to have a striker like him on our team. Not only his finishing ability, but everything he does off the ball, his defending, his aerial duels, his challenging centre backs, his running in behind and his hold-up play, it’s all fantastic. I thought he was man of the match tonight and it wasn’t even because of his goal, it was because of everything else that he did on the field. We’re very fortunate to have a player like him and I think he’s going to keep going and finish out the year on a hot streak.”
On being back from injury and not showing any rust:
“Well it was great to be back and thank you for saying that, but I definitely felt rusty, especially in the first half. If you’re out and you miss four or five games, you know the speed of the game definitely gets to you a little bit, especially coming and playing against a team like Vancouver who is desperate, a team that is very physical. Coming off a fracture in my leg, it was a little bit of rust and a little bit of apprehension going into fifty-fifty tackles and doing things that I need to do that make me a good player and help the team, but it was just good to be back on the field. I haven’t missed many games in my tenure here and obviously coming back in this environment on the road is never easy, but the guys had my back. We had to grind it out and certainly with the teams ahead of us picking up points we wanted to continue to pick up points and we knew Vancouver was going to be a desperate team, so it wasn’t ever going to be easy. Really happy with the whole performance from the boys and to squeak out a 1-0 win is something that we’re going to have to do, especially come playoff time. So I’m glad that we can win ugly.”
POOL REPORTER QUESTIONS TO “REFEREE” SORIN STOICA
Q: What was Carl Robinson sent off for?
A: Acting in an irresponsible manner.
Q: What was the irresponsible manner you perceived Carl Robinson to be acting in?
A: At the 18th and 42nd minutes of play, Mr. Robinson was warned after he verbally dissented and unusually gesticulated his disagreement to the decisions of the referees. At the 45th + 1 minute of play, Mr. Robinson continued verbally and visually dissenting the referee’s decision and was dismissed from the technical area.
Q: There was a handball in the build-up to New York’s first goal. Why was it not called?
A: Although the ball touched the arm of the attacker, it was not considered to be a deliberate handball.