In what seemed like a wild rollercoaster ride in the final minutes, Vancouver Whitecaps were able to come from behind for the second time in the match to earn a share of the points with Houston Dynamo.
The go ahead goals by the visitors came from Tomas Martinez and Mauro Manotas while Vancouver tied the score thanks to tallies by center half duo Jose Aja and Kendall Waston, with both goals coming at the death of each half.
The Whitecaps started strong with Kei Kamara, who was making his first start in over a month, heading a Bernie Ibini cross over the bar in the third minute.
They would continue to get opportunities to open the scoring but were unable to get that finished product past Joe Willis. That was to be a story of their night.
Houston made the ‘Caps pay for missing their chances in the 35th minute when Tomas Martinez finished off a Albert Elis pass at the top of the box, firing a low one past Brian Rowe, who was in the Vancouver goal following a knee injury to Stefan Marinovic at Whitecaps training on Thursday.
It looked as though the Dynamo would go into the break with the lead until Aja picked up his first as a Whitecap, and his MLS career, flicking a Waston pass from in close and at a tight angle. It was a great finish from the centre back, showing the attacking players how things should be done.
Just after the hour mark Ibini sent in a strike from outside the box that forced Willis to go low and palm the ball around the post into touch.
With 20 minutes to go the ‘Caps Captain had his chance to put Vancouver ahead but his header into what looked like an open net was knocked away by the Dynamo keeper with a sprawling last ditch save on the goalline.
The final ten minutes saw a plethora of chances by the home side that should have put the club up on each one, but a combination of poor finishing, strong goalkeeping, bad bounces, and the woodwork somehow kept the visitors lead intact.
In those final minutes the best chance came from Brek Shea who, while all alone inside the six yard area. flubbed his attempt with the goal gaping.
If that was the story of the night, you had always had this feeling that Houston may be on the ropes but they had a suckerpunch just waiting to be delivered. And they did.
It looked as though all was lost for the home side in the 90th minute as the Dynamo went ahead as Manotas collected a blocked shot and buried the ball behind a helpless Rowe, sparking jubilant scenes on the Houston bench.
The visitors had simply not been in the half, but now stood just stoppage time from a first ever win in Vancouver.
Fortunately for the Whitecaps, and the people remaining in the stands, Waston came to rescue at the death as he climbed to knock on a headed pass from Kamara to salvage the point.
While the goal at the death sent those at the match home happy, it still has to be concerning about the amount of points that are being dropped at home. With the amount of missed opportunities once again on display, this was very much a case of two points thrown away as opposed to one valiantly earned.
One thing that can be taken as a positive from this game is that the Whitecaps are creating enough chances to capture all three points but they need to be more clinically finished if they want to be victorious. You can pin a number of things on Carl Robinson as the coach around tactics, team selection, and style of play, but he can’t put the chances away for these guys. They have to do that themselves and many of them tonight were laid on a silver platter for them.
The Whitecaps will have another occasion to get the win in a few days time, with a quick turnaround for them when they host San Jose midweek at BC Place. This is very much three points for the taking. To do that they need to also take their chances more than they did tonight.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 2 – 2 Houston Dynamo
VANCOUVER: Brian Rowe; .Sean Franklin, Kendall Waston, José Aja, Marcel de Jong; Bernie Ibini (Brek Shea 83), Aly Ghazal (Efraín Juárez 66), Felipe, Alphonso Davies; Anthony Blondell (Yordy Reyna 69), Kei Kamara [Substitutes not used: Sean Melvin, Nicolás Mezquida, Cristian Techera, Jake Nerwinski]
HOUSTON: Joe Willis; Adolfo Machado, Alejandro Fuenmayor, Leonardo, Andrew Wenger; Eric Alexander, Darwin Cerén (Boniek García 14); Alberth Elis (Arturo Álvarez 73), Tomás Martínez (Luis Gil 71), Romell Quioto; Mauro Manotas [Substitutes not used: Chris Seitz, Memo Rodriguez, Mac Steeves, Eric Bird]
Thoughts on the match:
“Based upon on the second half performance, especially, I don’t think a point is fair justice. I thought we dominated the game, but it was clear and evident what we missed, which was the finish, and it’ll come back to bite you on the backside and it nearly did. We were 30 seconds from losing a game which we should have won comfortably. But great character shown by the boys.”
On conceding against the run of play:
“Football’s a horrible game, it really is. And when you think you’ve cracked the code, it’ll kick you in the teeth. I thought first half it was sort of a chess match. We started off very well, we had three or four decent chances. The first chance they had, the score. We get back into it with a quickly taken free kick from two centre backs, which we didn’t have planned. Second half I thought we played a little bit quicker, a little bit sharper, on the front foot a bit. I think Effy Juarez when he’d come in made a big difference with the tempo of the game. We missed a number of chances, and then we got sucker punched with a little bit of a square ball in the middle of the field, which is dangerous in football. But we kept going. But they should have been out of sight.”
On the team picking up the tempo in the final 30 minutes:
“You go through periods in games where – I don’t think we were ever in any danger –straight after halftime I challenged my players to play quickly, to play sharper …sometimes we get it, and sometimes we don’t. There was a lull in the game. Bringing Effy Juarez on, and Yordy Reyna who I thought was as sharp as I’ve seen him this season, made a big difference. We kept creating chances, and the crowd got involved which was brilliant for us. We had them on the ropes, but we were unable to put the punch in. We got sucker punched, but we never gave in, we kept going, last kick of the game a planned set piece which we work a lot on. We could have got three goals from set pieces today. So disappointing we got one set piece, but proud of the boys in there, I really am. Never giving in, being down twice against the run of play, I think we deserved a point definitely.”
Thoughts on the match:
“Exciting, frustrated, a lot of feelings. But at the end, what I go home with as a positive feeling is that we came out and the energy, the mentality that we had [was] that we were going to fight until the end. It’s hard that we create so many chances and only score two goals. I think we deserved more, but sometimes in football it’s not who deserves [it] and who’s not. I think that at this moment we see that if we don’t do things properly, two times, they score. So now we just have to keep trying to be as clean as possible to [not] give no team any type of chances.”
On if they should have won:
“Yes, totally. I think we should have won. But today I think for me it was the best game that we have played this season, and I think from here we’ve got to build up and keep this momentum because the better we play, the more chances we create. Someday we’re going to start to win, and win, and win.”
On his goal:
“To be honest I was catching eyes with Felipe, to see if he was going to [kick] it to me. But he do me like a kind of, that he was going to [kick] it to Kei [Kamara]. So I just sprinted in when Kei was in the sky like Michael Jordan, and I just tried to jump as high as possible – not like him – but I could score.”
On making his Vancouver Whitecaps debut:
“It was great, it’s been a while. I’ve been patiently waiting, and I hope Stefan [Marinovic] is alright. The job of being a goalkeeper always requires us to be ready. Awesome for me to step in for a home game, being able to get my first minutes as a Whitecap. It was a rollercoaster of a game, starting behind and then we were all over them, getting a goal right before halftime giving us good momentum into the second half, and unfortunate to concede that one towards the end, but I think we showed a lot of character, a lot of grit pulling that last goal out and getting a point out of it.”
On any advice from goalkeeper coach Stewart Kerr:
“I’ve been around long enough, he just told me to do my thing and play with confidence and play the same way I have.”
On unexpected start after Marinovic injury:
“You prepare every week to play. If your’e on the bench or if you’re not even dressing up, you never know what’s going to happen, but you have the same preparation, no real new thoughts or anything crazy going through my head, just here’s my opportunity and I’m ready to make the most of it.”
On the team reaction after that game:
“We should have won, because we’re at home and we need three points. We had many chances, and we couldn’t score, they had two chances, and they scored on their chances. We got one point, but we need to get three points Wednesday.”
On scoring his first MLS goal:
“I was very happy. I was looking for that goal every game. I scored on my first day of 25, so I was really happy. I was happy to help the team and happy to score the goal.”
On combining with Kendall for the goal:
“Kendall did really well today. He assisted on the first goal as well. He missed on his first three chances, but he got the goal in the end. We got one point, but we wanted three.”
Thoughts on the match:
“I think we had a good game overall. We came with a good idea [and] understanding that they were trying to counterattack, and they were trying to do their quick transitions to surprise, and if they couldn’t find the goals that way they would rely on set pieces because they have tall guys and they’re very good in the air. We went ahead with a good goal, we created, we did very good. But two minutes before halftime we gave up the ball in the middle; sadly the referee told the guys that they need to wait for the whistle, our guys trusted in that aspect to the referee, and they played quick, and we were in good shape in that moment, and they score to tie the game at the end of the first half. Second half, we came back and we tried to be solid again. It was a little bit too many fouls called, and they were trying to use that to kick the ball long and win on set pieces. I think a couple of times we were sure that there was offside, but the last man on that side thought that it was a little bit waiting in that aspect – I don’t know it wasn’t clear. Of course we knew that we had VAR, but we didn’t handle it well at the end, even though we scored five minutes before the end of the game. Again, set pieces, they tied the game on set pieces. So it’s just frustrating a little bit that the three games that we have, being ahead, we’ve been giving up goals, especially in set pieces. We’ve been giving up goals right there in the last minute. So we need to keep pushing, and we have to continue working. Set pieces, it’s still important. We’ve given up almost two goals per game. We score two goals, but now we have to score three goals to win. It’s going to be complicated. So we need to pay more attention to our set pieces, and we need to pay more attention to our responsibilities to close games, because it’s cost us a lot of points.”
On the play of goalkeeper Joe Willis:
“He was quite good. I think he made two very good saves, but I think at some point we need to help him just to be sure that we don’t receive that amount of crosses and they don’t head the ball that easy.”
On the debut of Luis Gil:
“He needs minutes, to come little by little. He’s going to be fine, we just needed him to play some minutes just to be on the field. 20 minutes for him was good, he was making good runs, trying to get some passes, trying to get to know his teammates. It’s going to be fine for us.”
On making his Dynamo debut:
“It was great. I felt good, but it would have been a lot better if we got those three points.”
On how the team played:
“I feel like we did a lot of positive things. We did extremely well that first half. We just have to find that way to close out games. We’re just giving points away, so we have to figure it out. We also have to be stronger defensively. And we’re giving up a couple of goals each game, so we have to be more solid in the back.”
On the tying goal:
“It’s difficult, they’ve got such tall guys, but that’s their game. We have to make it more difficult on them, put a body on them, make it more challenging. There’s only so much you can do when they’re so tall, but we have to figure it out.”