What a difference a week makes.
After the despair of last week’s late collapse at Sporting KC, Vancouver Whitecaps bounced back with the perfect response, putting in an assured performance to see off FC Dallas 1-0 at BC Place on Saturday night, reclaiming first place in the Supporters’ Shield standings in the process.
Cristian Techera’s goal may have been all that separated the two evenly matched teams at the end, but the ‘Caps were pretty comfortable throughout with only a couple of defensive scrambles causing some heart palpitations towards the end.
With results elsewhere going in their favour yet again, the ‘Caps finally took advantage and got some important points on the board, in what was the first of a ridiculous three meetings between the two sides in these closing weeks of the regular MLS season.
Here’s our match report and postgame reaction from both locker rooms.
REPORT (by Steve Pandher):
After giving up two straight two-goal leads, Vancouver Whitecaps were able to hold onto a 1-0 decision over FC Dallas and take over in the race for the Supporters Shield.
The difference in the match was the first half goal by Cristian Techera while David Ousted was credited with his tenth cleansheet of the season.
The first 30 minutes of the match saw both teams go back and forth in controlling possession but neither side troubled the opposing keeper with any significant chances. The best chance in that period was a long distance shot from former Cap Atiba Harris that forced Ousted to tip the ball past the post.
Techera eventually got the breakthrough and gave the Caps the lead just past the half hour mark, converting a pass from Kekuta Manneh after the Gambian had picked up the ball near the left sideline, making a run across before entering the right side and directing the ball on net where it was back heeled into the goal by the Bug.
FC Dallas had an opportunity to even the score just before the half with a free kick from 20 yards out but the wall did its job, blocking the attempt by Rolando Escobar.
Around the hour mark Michael Barrios had chance from 15 yards out but his shot lacked power and Ousted was easily able to corral it, after some good build up play from the wee winger.
Moments later Manneh had a chance to put the Caps up by two as he intercepted a backpass by Harris and got by Watson only to fire the ball over the net.
Vancouver thankfully didn’t need the insurance goal and they were able to limit the visitors any real chances in the final minutes, despite some frantic play around their box.
With the win the Whitecaps temporarily take over the top spot in both the Western Conference and MLS Supporters’ Shield standings depending on Sunday results. More importantly they were able to show the ability of closing out the game and claiming all three points, giving themselves a seven point lead over Dallas.
The ‘Caps will travel to Texas next Saturday to face the Houston Dynamo but before that they will have a chance to claim some silverware when they take on Montreal Impact for the elusive Voyageurs Cup.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 1 – 0 FC Dallas
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Steven Beitashour, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Jordan Harvey (Christian Dean 78); Matías Laba, Gershon Koffie; Cristian Techera (Nicolás Mezquida 82), Pedro Morales (Mauro Rosales 68), Kekuta Manneh; Octavio Rivero [Subs not used: Paolo Tornaghi, Robert Earnshaw, Russell Teibert, Darren Mattocks]
DALLAS: Jesse Gonzalez; Atiba Harris, Je-Vaughn Watson, Matt Hedges, Zach Lloyd; Fabian Castillo, Victor Ulloa (Ryan Hollingshead 84), Kellyn Acosta, Michael Barros; Blas Perez (Tesho Akindele 58), Rolando Escobar (David Texeira 73) [Subs not used: Chris Seitz, Ezequiel Cirigliano, Walker Zimmerman, Michel]
Thoughts on tonight’s win:
“We won the game which is good. I’m in a better mood this week than I was last week, as you can obviously tell. It’s finding the fine balance of playing very well, playing attacking soccer and winning. I don’t think there is any team that has that off to an art yet. Roll your sleeves up, fight, scrap, run, tackle and obviously, whoever was going to get there in front was probably going to win the game. Fortunately, it was us.”
On tonight’s defence:
“I’m really proud of them today. It’s easy to mask over things when you lose a game. We didn’t, I didn’t. I sat down with the group. My job is not to sit here in front of you guys every week. My job is to make those players individually better and collectively together. When you lose games, you have to look at yourself in the mirror. I’ve done that with my coaches and we’ve done that as a group of players as well. We tried to be better and we did today because the same things arose. We were winning the game but our management of the game was slightly different, which is credit to them, because they can take information onboard. I’m delighted for them today.”
Thoughts on Gershon Koffie and Octavio Rivero:
“They were both outstanding. I think every player, to a man, put on, gave absolutely everything for me. I took Pedro Morales off after 60 minutes. That was always the plan. He ran the furthest distance, he made the most sprints. He was knackered, if I can say that. It’s going to take a whole squad to be successful this year, and that’s why I pick and choose certain individuals for certain games. Koffie was outstanding. He ran the game for us. He broke up plays for them. They are a dangerous team away from home, especially because of the way they like to play with their transitional players. They’re very similar to us, that’s what I said to the group today. It was tense in the second half, especially because they had a lot of the ball. But they didn’t really get us, which is credit to the guys here. I think you see when Kendall Waston is in the team, we’re able to defend crosses a bit better.”
On Kekuta Manneh and whether he’s turned the corner with his consistency:
“I don’t think he’s turned the corner, I just think he’s playing with a little bit of confidence. With all young players, when they go through good times, people rave about them and talk about them. When they go through inconsistencies people are quick to criticise them or throw them under the bus. He’s just hit a vein of form at the moment. His understanding of what I’m asking him to do on both sides of the ball, he’s getting. The kid was dynamite tonight. But he can still improve. There’s areas of the game that he can improve individually, as well as teamwise.”
On the FC Dallas attack:
“Fortunately, we got the goal but they could have scored one or two. We got our noses in front, and we needed to make sure that we didn’t make it a real wide open game because they have dangerous players. And we didn’t. Having said that, we could be a little tidier in the final third in the second half because I think we got into some great areas without taking our chances. That would have helped us obviously. The last five minutes of injury time were incredible.”
On Kendall Waston’s leadership:
“Kendall speaks very good English. A lot of them speak very good English, even though they tend to not speak very good English to you guys. Kendall shows that he’s a leader. I want him to be a leader. I want David Ousted to be a leader. I want everyone down the spine of my team to be leaders because that’s what you need. When you go into certain venues, when times are tough, you need people to step up. I didn’t think we had enough people stepping up last week. Myself included, because I couldn’t help them the way I wanted to because I made all of my substitutions. Today, they answered me and stepped up. Obviously, Kendall was big for us tonight.”
On his first-half goal:
“It just happened really fast. It was something of instinct because it was the only option that I had. The ball was already behind me so that was the only thing I can do to put the ball in the net. Scoring goals is great but you got to look at it as a team effort. Everybody else is doing their job and goals come naturally with all the hard work we put in.”
On coming back from visit to Uruguay:
“It’s always great to go back home and have that support of my family and to know that they are doing well. That gives me the strength to move forward and keep going.”
On playing with Kekuta Manneh and Octavio Rivero:
“It’s nice when you get a little bit of continuity. You get familiar with everybody’s playing style but you know whoever is playing those positions is ready to go.”
On tonight’s win:
“I’m really happy. We didn’t play that well but we got away with three points. We’d like to have more possession of the ball. I don’t think we played particularly well with the ball today. With that said, some games you need to be scrappy, you need not to be pretty and just win and I think that was a perfect point today.”
On the performance on defence:
“They did really well. I said all along, the guys going in have quality. We just need to be very aware of new guys coming in helping out and communicating. I think we did that today. We stepped up and proved that we can defend well again.”
On communication with Kendall Waston:
“Kendall is always funny. He either tells me to lay down or kick it long. Those are the two things he always says to me. He was just like me, wanting to control the game and making sure that everybody was on point. That is what we need, we need to step up and take responsibility and make sure everyone knows their job and that happened today.”
On the outlook for the rest of the season:
“I think it is dangerous getting too far ahead of ourselves. We were standing here a couple of days ago talking about the sting of the loss against Sporting Kansas City, and now you’re talking Supporters’ Shield. I’ll step back a little bit and say we are happy with three points right now but we need to focus on each game coming up. I’ve said all along, the last games of the year, I don’t see any easy games. There are no walkovers. Every game is going to be crazy in this Western Conference. I do feel we can stay on top, we are good enough but Supporters’ Shield or not, we need to push on.”
On tonight’s loss:
“It’s hard to say that we played well because we didn’t score goals. At the end, the goals are what gives you points. Kekuta Manneh is fast and that was the difference. It could be in a big match like this that just one player makes all the difference. We have to accept it.”
On the current losing streak following a successful July:
“In a league where we know everything is tight, the confidence is hard to differentiate from one month to the other month. July was as important as August and I’m sure September will be the same. We need to get some points, we need to bounce back and get some points but we’re not going to lose our head. The boys played well today, I have to give them the credit that they took the initiative against a team that is really aggressive and I thought we controlled them.”
On the difference in the match:
“It was a game where just one player made the difference. We were not as heavy up front to impact the game. We could have control of the game but that doesn’t give you much if you don’t punish when you are in the last third. Vancouver had one player with Kekuta Manneh that made the difference. That one player made the difference.”
On playing down by a goal:
“We always thought that we could get a goal even after we gave up one. I thought we had plenty of control of the game to equalize and you could do it considering the experience that they had. In the last 15 minutes, we tried to see if we could get something there but unfortunately we couldn’t.”
On Jesse Gonzalez’ performance:
“I’m happy for Jesse. I thought he did pretty well in a place like Vancouver where it’s tense. The atmosphere is difficult and to play away here is not easy. He showed a lot of personality. This is our model in Dallas and we stick to it. We’re happy to see one more Homegrown coming on to the stage and have a good performance. I thought he did well. I’m proud of him.”
On Kendall Waston’s effect on the match:
“Kendall Waston won a lot of headers. We tried to get long and he won a lot of headers. The game plan was clear but it was a tough ending to the game.”
On lack of goals:
“It was maybe a little surprising but probably both teams were playing cautious. They know that we can score goals and we know that they can score goals so everybody didn’t want to be opened up. It made sense.”
On the current losing streak:
“It’s coming to the end of the season. We need ourselves in a good position not just to make the playoffs but to be in a very good position in the playoffs. We need to do something better than we have done today.”
On tonight’s loss:
“I thought we came out and we played decently on the road. It’s not the result that we needed. We needed to get points. Three games in a row now – no points. It’s disappointing.”
On the current losing streak:
“We need to get back results at this point. Three losses in a row is killing us at a time when we need to get wins. We’re not and we’re not top of the table.”
On Cristian Techera and Kekuta Manneh:
“They caused problems. They’ve got good technique and good pace. Those are never easy to play against especially having them on both sides of the field. They got their win because of it. It’s tough.”
On Jesse Gonzalez’ performance:
“It’s never easy – away and especially in an atmosphere like that. I thought he handled it well. He made no mistakes so it was a good debut. It was disappointing obviously not to get the win for him but I thought it was a good debut for him.”