Technically it’s just half time in the tie. There’s still time, there’s all to play for, one away goal for the ‘Caps changes everything and so on and so forth. All true, but you have to feel that FC Edmonton have put themselves into pole position after last night’s 1-1 draw with Vancouver Whitecaps in the first leg of their Canadian Championship semi-final.
The ‘Caps looked flat and it felt like not only had the players not played games together but that they barely knew each other. But this wasn’t exactly a totally inexperienced team. All but two of the starters (Tornaghi and Dean) have seen MLS minutes this season.
What was it down to? No chemistry? Nerves? Both or something else as well? Edmonton deserve credit, they played an excellent game.
The biggest disappointment for me was that this was the chance for players to show they deserved to be in the MLS mix and none of them took it apart from Tim Parker. A depth discussion is also something for another day.
In the meantime, we bring you our match report and full postgame reaction from both locker rooms as the ‘Caps Cup curse continues!
REPORT (by Steve Pandher):
For the second straight match Vancouver Whitecaps started slow and this time it cost them as they drew FC Edmonton 1-1 in the first leg of their Voyageurs Cup semi-final.
While Gershon Koffie’s late goal was able to salvage a tie for the MLS side, it was his mistake in the opening minutes that gave the Eddies the vital away goal from Tomi Ameobi.
Koffie’s error came in the fourth minute when he was pressured by Ritchie Jones forcing him to turn into Ameobi. The striker took the ball away and walked into the box easily scoring past a helpless Paolo Tornaghi.
The remainder of the first half saw the visitors sit back and absorb any little pressure the Caps were able to mount. Of the five attempts on goal, none tested the keeper, with three of them getting blocked and two of them missing by a wide margin.
It took four minutes into the second half for Vancouver to get one on target with Matt Van Oekel gathering a up a shot from Erik Hurtado. The ‘Caps striker had another glorious chance in the 66th when Mattocks was able head the ball into Hurtado’s path but his wild first time attempt missed to the right of the goal.
With 15 minutes to go, Ameobi had a couple of chances to get Edmonton a second away goal but both attempts were sent wide.
The Caps were finally able to rescue a draw with three minutes to go, as Gershon Koffie made up for his early flub. He took the cross from Jordan Harvey, cut back to his left and poked the ball past Van Oekel for the equaliser.
In added time, the Caps almost grabbed the lead when second half sub Robert Earnshaw found himself free on the right side of the goal, but there was little room due to the tight angle and he sent the ball into the side netting.
The Whitecaps will now go up north to take on FC Edmonton in the second leg with the hope to advance to Voyageur Cup final. However before that they will host their Cascadian rivals Seattle Sounders on Saturday at BC Place in a crucial Western Conference matchup.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 1 – 1 FC Edmonton
VANCOUVER: Paolo Tornaghi; Ethan Sampson, Tim Parker, Christian Dean, Sam Adekugbe (Jordan Harvey 4); Gershon Koffie, Deybi Flores (Kekuta Manneh 74), Kianz Froese, Nicolas Mezquida (Robert Earnshaw 61), Erik Hurtado; Darren Mattocks [Substitutes not used: Marco Carducci, Ben McKendry, Russell Teibert, Caleb Clarke]
EDMONTON: Matt Van Oekel, Eddie Edward, Mallan Roberts, Kareem Moses, Johann Smith, Sainey Nyassi (Michael Nonni 88), Ritchie Jones, Christian Raudales, Daryl Fordyce (Tomas Granitto 80), Lance Laing, Tomi Ameobi [Substitutes not used: John Sits, Allan Zebie, Sadi Jalali, Hanson Boakai, Chad Burt]
Thoughts on the match:
“I’m delighted we got the goal in the end. I thought we deserved it the way we played. There was a lot of good performances, there were others that were okay. I’ve asked them individually to look at it and we’ll look at it collectively but as I said I think we deserved something out of that game.”
Thoughts on an error leading to the goal:
“I spoke to my coaches at halftime. I want us to play. I want us to be a team that tries to pass the ball and play and because I want to do that [but] we will make mistakes. I likened it a little bit to Steven Gerrard giving the ball away against Chelsea and they lost the Premier League. Gershon gives the ball away in a cup competition in the first few minutes of the game, they catch us and they score. Would you tell Steven Gerrard to do the things that he shouldn’t do? Nah. So I’m not telling Koffie to do that. I’ll take responsibility for that cause I want them to play. I think we grew into the game and obviously they answered in the end.”
Thoughts on players being nervous:
“Yeah maybe. They shouldn’t be but I think for some it was. Got to get used to it. In front of our fans, we play in front of 20,000 every week. We go to Portland, we go to Seattle on the road, so you got to get used to it. We will. We’re in the big boy world now.”
Thoughts on players being unfamiliar with each other:
“Maybe in games they haven’t played enough minutes together, but they train together and I think as the game grew they got stronger and more confident with each other. They played some decent stuff at times. That’s the encouragement I’m going to take away. Even if we have won or lost this game, the tie is not over. We got a game next Wednesday, but a game we will be ready for.”
Thoughts on injuries affecting next game:
“Yeah I wanted to come out of the game without any injuries, which is why I rested some of the guys, but obviously that didn’t work. My fault for that one. Sam isn’t looking great if I’m honest. He will be re-assessed by the doctor. He landed awkwardly so I’ll keep my fingers crossed on that one. Deybi Flores – it’s just the bum cheek so that’s not too bad.”
Thoughts on Jordan playing so many minutes lately:
“Yeah I’m lucky he is a fit boy aren’t I? I didn’t want to use him today. I wanted him rested but we got him. He was very composed when he came on as I expect form a senior player. He managed the game very well, managed his performance very well as well and set the standard as well.”
What was said at halftime?
“I just said to them to be confident. The game panned out exactly as I thought it would. Unfortunately I didn’t think about giving them a goal after two or three minutes. The way they played was exactly how I thought. I thought they slowed the game down. I give Colin credit. His team managed the game very well which is why I said to him at the end in the 46th, 49th minute, in the 55th minutes – your players are going down. It’s not why we pay to watch football. The ball wasn’t in play enough.”
Thoughts on Paolo’s game:
“It was quiet for Paolo today. Conceding after a couple of minutes is probably not nice for him, but he was good. “
Thoughts on playing more senior players in the return leg:
“Maybe. We’ve got a big game on the weekend which obviously our focus turns to now. We’ll try and win that game against Seattle cause it’s a massive game for the club, it’s a massive game for the group in there. We’ll put this game to bed now and we’ll deal with Saturday and we’ll get back to work on this game on Sunday or Monday.”
Thoughts on the match:
“I think it was a difficult game. I think there’s a lot of things we can work on. I think for at least half the game we struggled to make a difference. We struggled with the competitiveness. I think they wanted the game more than us in the first half and this is crucial because that’s when they got the goal. I think second half we were much better. We slowed the game down ourselves but passed the ball quicker. This was key because once you start moving the ball – the ball is quicker than everybody else on the pitch. So once we start moving the ball, trying to create angles and make space, that’s when we got our spaces.”
Thoughts on Edmonton slowing down the play in the second half:
“Credit to them. They tried to be clever. They played the game, they played within the rules and the sportsmanship was obviously difficult but this is the cleverness of the details of football. Sometimes when you can understand the game and see what’s going on, you have to slow it down. They were clever. Credit to them. Obviously they made it difficult for us.”
Thoughts on his missed scoring opportunity:
“I think I would probably have taken the touch inside. I think that would have opened the goal up a little bit more. It was a very tight angle and I just tried to hit the roof of the net. I just thought in that split second that going across the goal would have been too tight. The bigger angle was to go high, so I just sliced the ball a little bit. These chances will come and I’m sure if I have another one I’ll put it in. These things happen, but the key thing is we created the chance. I almost got it just before that as well. I’ll take this chance – that’s what we are all about. We are happy that we make the chances.”
Thoughts on the match:
“I think we came out to win this game. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way, but we didn’t lose. We’ll take the positives out of this game.”
Thoughts on you having to make up for the mistake:
“Mistakes are part of the game. Mistakes happen here and there. Thanks to my teammates, they helped to fight back.”
Thoughts on the comeback from a goal down:
“We ended up 1-1, but we train tomorrow and do our corrections and we train what to do. It’s all about us and what we do next weekend. The focus is on this weekend’s game and then we focus on the next game, which is on Wednesday.”
Thoughts on younger players being nervous:
“I think for some of the guys it’s not their first game, but it’s their first game starting. I wouldn’t say there is so much nerves but really the first 15 to 20 minutes they have to be nervous about the game but they are strong, and their mentality is strong to come back.”
Thoughts on being captain
“It’s great. The group of boys inside are fantastic guys. To be their leader is something that is blessed. I love to be with them and I love to lead them.”
Thoughts on the match
“I’ve got to say that I am extremely proud as head coach of FC Edmonton tonight. And on behalf of our owner Tom Fath in the corner there, very proud of the players. You know we have just arrived from New York on Monday late in the afternoon, played in 87 degrees, little bit warmer than it has been in Edmonton as you guys saw last Wednesday. To put an effort in like that tonight I think is fantastic, absolutely fantastic. We wanted to keep the tie tight, score an away goal which we did and I thought for a spell in the first half almost gave the impetus back to the Whitecaps sometimes because we gave the ball away too easy in the wrong areas. That gives the crowd a lift because it gives the Whitecaps a lift. But the heart, the determination, the character was everything the Eddies stand for. I am very proud of everyone in the club and everyone back home is very proud of the team as well. So it’s been a really good evening and as soon as I saw the six minutes go up, I thought bad words because we saw that six minutes go up in Montreal and the same referee gave a penalty, a very dodgy penalty. The guys weathered the storm as you would imagine it is a very very talented Whitecaps group. Whoever plays for the ‘Caps has got real quality and I am sure they are the envy of the MLS with the talent that they have at their disposal. Carl’s done a great job with the group here. So all in all absolutely ecstatic about the attitude, individual performances, there were some fantastic performances. Very proud of our team tonight.”
Thoughts on upcoming game and if players will be rested:
“Absolutely no rest at all, what do you think this is a country club? No, we will assess the guys obviously. We get up tomorrow, travel back to Edmonton, more of a recovery day on Friday and then we will assess it on Saturday, if there’s some knocks, some pains or whatever which is understandable. We’ve got a very difficult game on Sunday against San Antonio who won the Soccer Bowl last season. So we will have to regroup, program the thoughts to as much recovery as we can and then get ready for a real battle. We are good at home. We are unbeaten in 11 games at home so we’ve got a lot to look forward too. The incentive is there for the guys to play well on Sunday so it gives everyone a lift because I was so disappointed in giving away four goals. It was the first time in almost three seasons that our club has given away four goals on Sunday. The manner that we gave them was very poor. But we finished a stronger team against the Cosmos. We’ve had a lot of games, a lot of travelling recently and it doesn’t get any easier. As an ex-professional myself I wanted to play in games rather than train so for some it’s been great but for the guys doing the running out there it’s not been fun.”
Thoughts on Whitecaps losing two players and if that changes things tactically:
“No, not at all, because as I have said earlier it is what the Eddies do. It’s what we do and we play well at home. We play very well at home and we play dangerous, we’ve got real good pace. It doesn’t matter. We won’t change. We haven’t changed for any team that has come into Edmonton. The same culture, the same desire and passion that’s a demand of every training session with our team and anything below that would be disappointing. We know we will have to be at our very best again on Wednesday and it’s a very talented Vancouver Whitecaps team. Regardless who puts on a Whitecaps jersey has quality. Once again we will have to be on our best and hope the Whitecaps have an off day. I’m not under any illusions, not getting carried away. It was a solid away performance in the cup against a very talented team with lots of pace. I thought we more than matched them with the passion and the desire and the way we organized the team.”
Thoughts on goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel:
“Yeah, he was poor on Sunday and I told him. It’s not anything he hasn’t heard before. I gave him the belt on Monday when we arrived in Vancouver because it was disappointing by his standards. But tonight he has answered the bell and that’s why we brought him to the club, to put in performances like that. He made two very good saves to keep us in the tie. In all honesty the guys were heavy legged at that point. Rob Earnshaw broke through against Kareem Moses. I worked with Earnie when I was at Derby County in the English Premier League so he’s normally deadly from there so thank goodness he managed to miss the chance. But big Matt was excellent. He came up big when he needed to and that’s what he is paid for. He’s paid to make those saves at that time.”
Thoughts on the draw:
“I think we probably deserved to get a little more out of the game. They were pushing in the second half, and obviously going down to 10 men kind of killed us a bit. They managed to get the goal when we had our man off.”
Eddies performance after Sunday’s loss at New York Cosmos:
“I think with our work ethic and the attitude, the boys put in a great shift tonight. We just need to make sure we do that game in and game out, not just when big games like this arise.”
What they expect in the second leg next week:
“They’ll be coming out all guns blazing, I’m guessing. But we know that we ourselves are not just going to sit back and try and hold on. We know how strong we are at home, especially in the second half.”
“We’re definitely going to go and try and get a goal or two to try and kill the tie off. But we’re going to have to be ready because it will be a very strong Whitecaps team coming next Wednesday.”