A change of venue and competition provided a difference as the Vancouver Whitecaps got a measure of revenge against Sporting Kansas City with a 3-0 win in CONCACAF Champions League action at BC Place on Tuesday night.
After losing Saturday in MLS play on the road in Kansas City, a brace from Cristian Techera helped the ‘Caps to remain perfect after two group games played.
Vancouver now sit atop Group C on six points, a five point gap on both Sporting KC and Trinidad and Tobago side Central FC, and are showing much different form, and passion, in this competition than has been seen in league action these past few weeks.
It was a quick fire start from Vancouver, who pressed the visitors from kick off, and Techera opened in the scoring in the 8th minute when Masato Kudo intercepted a poor pass and sent it to Erik Hurtado, who crossed the ball into the box where it was headed home by the diminutive winger.
It only took four minutes for the home side to double their lead and a fired up Hurtado, returning from a recent injury, was in the think of the action again after taking a perfectly weighted pass over the top of the KC backline and lobbing it over the charging KC keeper.
Jordan Smith nearly made it three in the 17th minute, having two fierce shots on goal, but Jon Kempin handled them both well.
The visitors pushed hard to get back into the game, but Vancouver were giving them little scope to do that.
So 2-0 at the half and the ‘Caps were looking comfortable. Hurtado rattled the post a minute into the second half, as Vancouver smelled blood, but KC had a chance to pull one back three minutes before the hour mark, but Diego Rubio headed wide when he should have hit the target.
The final nail in the KC coffin came in the 64th minute and it was Techera again who did the damage after Laba sent him in alone on Kempin and the Bug slotted the ball expertly past the keeper to make it 3-0.
The Uruguayan was denied his hat-trick nine minutes later when Kempin made another big stop, but that would just have been the cherry on top of a good cake, er, performance, as would Masato Kudo’s late effort that crashed off the bar.
With the three points secured, Vancouver now only needs to win their final home match against Central FC to advance out of the group stage and into the knockout round for the first time. With the way this season has gone, that’s a tremendous achievement and something for the whole club to look forward to.
But before it even comes to those matches, the ‘Caps must refocus their momentum as they head to Los Angeles this weekend to take on the Galaxy in MLS play.
There’s no doubting that Carl Robinson has his work cut out to pick the best line-up for that one, but you have to go with the form players, and on the evidence of Tuesday night, a number of the fringe guys deserve their chance and reward in a game Vancouver have little hope of taking much from in any regard.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 3 – 0 Sporting Kansas City
VANCOUVER: Paolo Tornaghi; Jordan Smith, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Brett Levis; Fraser Aird, Matías Laba (Andrew Jacobson 90), Russell Teibert, Cristian Techera (Alphonso Davies 76); Masato Kudo, Erik Hurtado (Blas Pérez 68) [Substitutes not used: Spencer Richey, Nicolás Mezquida, Cole Seiler, Marcel de Jong]
KANSAS CITY: Jon Kempin; Saad Abdul-Salaam, Amer Didic, Kevin Ellis, Ever Alvarado; Paulo Nagamura, Soni Mustivar (Ualefi 64), Emmanuel Appiah; Cameron Porter, Diego Rubio, Connor Hallisey [Substitutes not used: Alex Kann, Matt Besler, Dom Dwyer, Roger Espinoza, Jimmy Medranda]
On if this is what the team is capable of:
“When the guys don’t play well, then I think it’s fair to give them a little bit of criticism, and myself. But when they play like that, and I know they can play like that, you know it’s hard for me sometimes to sit here and say we’ve done great. We haven’t been doing well enough, but I challenged them, especially after Saturday’s game. I challenged them – because they’re all good players, they’re good people – to have a go. And we certainly had a go tonight. I think you see examples of Cristian Techera tackling and Fraser Aird putting two great tackles in. We got outfought on Saturday, and we didn’t get outfought today. In any walk of life, you put the hard work in and you get your rewards, and today we got our rewards. I’m pleased today. It’s one game. Hopefully it will build confidence. We had some players that played very very well. Like I say, it’s a start for us.”
On what this does for team psyche:
“Hopefully it builds confidence, because they were excellent tonight and they played like it was a final. We’ve got to go in with that mindset into every game we play. You know we might not win every game, but if we’re not going to win a game of football we’re going to go down like that and have a go. And they did have a go tonight. When you have a go, quality comes out. I thought we showed some exceptional quality at times. We could have kept the ball a little bit more, but transitional play was excellent, and there was some top performances. Hopefully it will build a bit of confidence. We’ve got an easy game on the weekend, as you all know. So we’ll go there and have a go.”
On using a 4-4-2 formation:
“On Saturday they caused us one or two problems with their ball possession. I just wanted to set-up slightly different. I wanted to give some other players some minutes, so it was trying to fit the right people in the right places. But I just had a feeling that with Mati and Rusty playing there, they’re like dogs, they go and win the ball and they pant and they scrap and they like each other, which is important. They set our transitional play off, and I think they set the tone. You see the confidence for Erik Hurtado, Cristian Techera, Matias Laba, and I can go on and on. But hard work beats everything.”
On Cristian Techera being back in form and possibly being the much needed spark for rest of the season:
“I hope so, because he’s a very talented young player. We had a young team out there today. Kendall Waston was probably the oldest player, he was the captain. Blas cam on, but we had a young team. Hopefully the bug can do that on a more regular basis. He works hard in training. And I think people forget he’s a young player, and young players go through confidence spurts. Unfortunately a number of players were going through that at the same time. But we’ve just got to get back to work and roll our sleeves up and fight and scrap and kick and run. I thought we’d done that today. It was an enjoyable game of football to watch. And I have to give credit to the officials. How good were the officials? Some great tackles coming in and we’re not talking about the officials, which we tend to maybe do on a regular basis too much. So credit to them.”
On whether players are knocking on his door now after tonight’s performances and who will play v LA:
“I’ll play the same team. Nah, I dunno. We’ll see how they are. Some of those players should be knocking at my door asking ‘why am I not playing?’ if they’re not playing. So the guys that didn’t play today have got to pull their finger out. It’s as simple as that. I said to the guys after the game on Saturday, we’re fighting for our lives here. You’re fighting for your careers. We’re at a fantastic football club, fantastic people, fantastic support. They come and support us every week. We’re going through a tough period at the moment and the way you get them behind you is gritting your teeth. But we’re all fighting for our futures. I said that and it showed tonight. Some of those have done themselves the world of good.”
On what qualifying for the knockout rounds would mean to the club:
“We’re in the competition to try and have a go at it,” Robinson said. “Sometimes it dictates it and sometimes it doesn’t. I wanted to give a number of my players an opportunity and we got two good results. It’s far from over. We’ve got two more difficult games to go. But if we apply ourselves with the same mindset and the same mentality as we did today, then hopefully we can achieve another first for the club. It’s an important competition. If you’re going to enter these things, then you should have a go, and we’re certainly having a go.”
On the clean sheet:
“For me, I was a little bit disappointed from last year. So I was really looking forward to kind of get revenge and doing very good in this competition. Today was a night like this, so I’m happy about it.”
On players meeting the coaches challenge:
“I think that was also something that came from us, all the spirit that we have in the locker room. The coach demands more from us, so as a player we have to be better and I think tonight was just the first step in that direction.”
On if this momentum can carry on into Saturday at LA Galaxy:
“It must. There’s no time for setbacks, we need to get better and get good results from now until the end of the season.”
On Techera and Hurtado’s play tonight:
“Erik’s always working hard. We see him every day in training. For Bicho [Techera], he needed this goal, he needed the feeling to come back and score. He’s done it in the first CONCACAF game, and also here in front of our fans. I think everyone can see how good he is. We have to go on and keep going.”
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Thoughts on the match:
“We made two early mistakes. Obviously the first goal was poor on our part, giving up the ball in that area of the field. Second goal, we talked about a lot before we came in here that we knew they were going to play a lot of balls over the top, that’s something they like to do, not only this group of guys, but lots of times at home, and we were sleeping. They scored two good goals, caught us on both of our mistakes and, from that point on I think they were the better team. They were more aggressive, they were better on the one-on-one duels, they were the better competitor today. The crazy think about it is that, you know, Diego Rubio had an open header he probably should have put away. Hallisey had a one-on-one with the keeper he probably should have put away, then it potentially could have been a PK. But at the end, like I said, they were the better team, they were more competitive.”
On players getting a chance to play and not rising to the challenge:
“I think the unfortunate thing for guys when they don’t do that is they leave themselves open to what the cruelty of this game is. At the end if you don’t take advantage of your opportunities, you leave yourself open at the end of the season to not be a part of the club, so I think that’s every time you step on the field though.”
On if there’s disappointment on how Champions League campaign has gone so far:
“I thought the way that the tournament was set up from the beginning with the schedule was horrendous. Not to say that we didn’t come here to compete for the tournament, but we have been in this competition now for the third time and the scheduling, the way it was put together, was horrendous. So, I think for all three teams in particular, and I know that Vancouver has to do the same thing, they have to compete and travel like we have had to, and games are played on Tuesday, and after a Saturday match, it just doesn’t make sense. If you play in Champions League in the rest of the world or over in Europe, you don’t go in the Champions League trying to play a second team, you play with your best guys, but unfortunately we don’t have the luxury of doing that because of the way the scheduling was.”
On what KC can do to turn their woeful road form around (one win in last 15 matches in all competitions):
“I think our form is very good actually. We just played on Saturday and we won 2-0. I think we have good performances on the road as well. We just tied at Dallas on the road, we got a great point there. Our performances have been good. Sometimes the results don’t go your way.”