Report and Reaction: Blas Perez opens Whitecaps account and douses Fire hopes of a draw
It was a night of “mixed emotions” for Vancouver Whitecaps. They came away with all three points against Chicago Fire thanks to a last ditch Blaz Perez bicycle kick, but at the same time lost striker Masato Kudo to a horror head injury after a collision with Fire ‘keeper Matt Lampson.
Looking at the positive angle, that’s six games unbeaten at home now for the Whitecaps, with four wins. The goals are starting to come from open play and there’s some real chemistry and understanding being shown.
On the flip side, they gave up a goal due to some more defensive slackness and almost gave up a couple of points to the worst team in the league before digging themselves out of a hole.
The Whitecaps are something of an enigma this season. But at least they’re games are exciting to watch.
REPORT (by Steve Pandher) :
It took late game heroics and a brace from (AFTN writer) Blas Perez to get Vancouver the full three points as the Whitecaps defeated the last placed Chicago Fire 2-1 on Wednesday evening.
Blas Perez scored with an overhead bicycle kick with less than two minutes to go in regular time, after connecting on a tipped shot from Kekuta Manneh.
The Whitecaps opened the scoring in the 36th minute when first half sub Perez, who came on for the injured Masato Kudo in the 11th minute, guided a cross from Christian Bolanos into the net for his first goal of the season and his first as a Whitecap.
The Fire would equalise just after the hour mark when Kennedy Igboananike, after making a couple of stepovers, fired a shot from outside the box beating David Ousted at his near post.
The first half saw each side have a quality chance to get the first goal early as Matt Lampson came across his box to rob Nicolas Mezquida from in close. Moments later Igboananike was released on goal but the combination of Tim Parker leaning in on him and Ousted charging proved too much for the striker.
Just before the half Chicago almost drew even when Joey Calistri found some room behind Waston but Ousted once came up big again to deny the opportunity.
There was a scary moment early in the match with a collision between Kudo and Lampson, as both players were charging for a through ball from Pedro Morales.
Kudo took the worst of it with his head hitting the turf leaving him prone for several minutes. He was eventually got up on his own feet before being carted off with an apparent concussion, bloody mouth and suspected jaw injury.
The Caps dominated possession and attempts on target throughout the match but were still exposed a couple of times on the counter attack, which will be a concern moving forward.
They will only have a couple of days to soak in this victory as they travel east to face Toronto FC on Saturday.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 2 – 1 Chicago Fire
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Fraser Aird, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Jordan Harvey; Pedro Morales, Matías Laba; Christian Bolaños, Nicolás Mezquida (Kekuta Manneh 66), Cristian Techera (Erik Hurtado 84); Masato Kudo (Blas Pérez 19) [Subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Andrew Jacobson, Russell Teibert, Pa-Modou Kah]
CHICAGO: Matt Lampson; Rodrigo Ramos, Johan Kappelhof, Jonathan Campbell, Joao Meira, Michael Harrington (Brandon Vincent 63); Arturo Alvarez (Collin Fernandez 85), Razvan Cocis, Michael Stephens (Matt Polster 46); Joey Calistri, Kennedy Igboananike [Subs Not Used: Sean Johnson, Nick LaBrocca, Eric Gehrig, Gilberto]
Update on Masato Kudo:
“It’s not good. I don’t think it’s looking very good. Obviously it’s a head injury, I think it’s a jaw problem. I’m going to go see him now, straight after. Mixed emotions today, because performance I thought we were ok, average. Blas, delighted for Blas. Top, top professional. Two super goals. Obviously a big blow losing Masato, so mixed emotions.”
On if in years past he ever thought Blas Perez would be on his side scoring these goals:
“Ah, no. Listen, he’s a good player. Every time he’s played against us he’s caused us problems and that’s the reason why I wanted to bring him to the club. I’d done my research on him, with his character, because it’s about character as well. Every player in the football club, you have to do your research on him. All the people, players, coaches, spoke very highly of him. So I knew there wasn’t a problem, it was just sometimes clubs decide to move players for whatever reason. I had no concerns about it, he fits in with the group very well. The boys love him. He’s an exceptional, experienced professional. And he’s still going, now as he’s getting into the later stages of his career. I said to him on the field, your father would be very proud of you today.”
On playing the same starting lineup:
“I think they deserved to play again. I haven’t done it too much since I’ve been in charge, for whatever reason, and this season’s no different due to some suspensions and other things as well. I haven’t been able to do it and I got the chance to do it today. In the first half we dominated possession. A little bit sloppy at certain times, defensively I thought we were a little bit open. Their game plan was obviously to catch us on the counter, and it worked. You know, fair play to them, but I think it also showed that a rested team – and they’re very well rested – can hurt you and cause you problems. I knew the subs might make a difference when they come on, I didn’t realize they would be that early, for one. But the two guys who come on, Kekuta and Erik as well, had a big part in the final goal.”
On what he will do in Toronto:
“There will be some changes, that’s safe to say. I’m going to have to make one or two changes. I’ll put a little bit of freshness into it because towards the end of the game, we were huffing and puffing, but great character show, absolutely phenomenal character by the guys. Sometimes it got called a trap game to me, by someone yesterday, and I didn’t like that word – trap game. Because it actually sets me off, winds me up when people say that because we’re expected to win, they’re putting added pressure on you. So sometimes I don’t care how you play. We all want to play attractive football like we did on Saturday, play wide open, expansive, free flowing – whatever you want to use – and we did. Today was another three points that we didn’t play as well as we could, but we’ll take the win.”
On player reaction to injury and slow start to second half:
“I went on the pitch to see my player, and I’m not allowed to go on the pitch, but I asked the linesman “could I go on”, and he said “yes”. So I got permission to do that because it’s important. Sometimes it’s not about football, and at that moment it wasn’t about football, it was about me checking my player is ok and showing him the support, which I’ll do again now when I finish up with you guys. You know, we deserved to be ahead, and second half I challenged them to come out again, as I did against Portland on Saturday. For whatever reason we didn’t, and I’m not sure what I can put it down to whether it’s tiredness; when you’re tired physically your mind stops working, and when your mind stops working you make wrong decisions. We made too many wrong decisions in the second half, but we hung in there. When things don’t go well for you you’ve got to hang in there, and we did. We showed great character. I let the guys know, it’s a special day for Blas today, but make sure you all send a message to Masato and his wife, because he’s a massive part of this football club and he’ll feel that we’re right behind him.”
On feeling that the team needed a second goal:
“I did, and I could see it coming. It’s easy to say once they score, but I just sensed it. I was always set to make a substitution probably around the 60-minute mark. The average substitution, apparently, is 58 minutes. I didn’t want to actually go on 58 minutes to be another dot on that line, so I was going to go after. But they scored, so it just made it a little bit quicker. But Kekuta came on and made the dynamic of the game a little bit different because of the type of player he is compared to Nico Mezquida, who’s done great for us. It was always planned to do that, obviously I only had two subs up my sleeve. We got back into it a little bit on the attacking side, cause I think we could score from a set play. But we left ourselves wide open as well, so we’ll have to narrow that for the weekend because we’re going to a well-rested Toronto who’ve got very good attacking players. But we’re not bad either, we can score goals as well.”
BLAS PEREZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR)
On his goal:
“I thought the referee called the foul, so I was a little surprised because normally balls like that high up in the air, the referee sometimes calls fouls for high feet. But that’s what I normally wanted to do, when I saw my teammates coming towards me, that’s when I realized the ball had gone in.”
On his performance:
“I always come to work and do my job, I just support my team. I just haven’t scored goals and I was working hard and that’s the result.”
On the Kudo injury and coming on as an early substitute:
“Every time you see a colleague or a friend of yours on the field, it’s obviously a little surprising. It’s not nice and I was warming up. I just wanted to take the opportunity and you just have to get ready if you’re on the bench and come on to do your job.”
On his bicycle kick being his best ever goal:
“It’s mostly important getting the three points. It was a nice goal. What I was trying to do definitely ranks up there among the better goals I have scored. Given it was in the 88th minute, the game was winding down. It was a bicycle kick under circumstance, but I’ve scored bicycle kicks in the past, but this is definitely up there.”
On the match:
“Obviously delighted. Two wins on the bounce. Just what we need, going on two away games coming up. I though we didn’t play as well as we can today. But at the end of the day when the season finishes, no one looks back and sees how you played. Everyone remembers the three points. It’s finished now, we get the three points and move on.”
On Blas Perez winning bicycle kick goal:
“It’s probably the best finish I’ve seen live. Playing in the game, in my whole career to be honest. It was unbelievable. I think I was in the same boat as him. I didn’t think it was in, or the referee blew the whistle at the start of it. Everyone just started celebrating. I just went mental. But it just shows how much of a good pro he is. Obviously, biding his time, waiting for his chance to come on or make an impact to the game. Obviously very unfortunate that Kudo goes down, wishing him all the best in his recovery. But Blas comes on and scores two goals and wins us the game. It just shows you the type of pro he is. All credit to him. He deserves it and his finish was unbelievable. If that doesn’t win Goal of the Week, then I think I’m going to need to phone in and have a word with someone.”
“I believe we had a very good second half and that we were close to getting a win on the road. We will keep fighting, keep working and keep the faith. In three days we have another game, so we have to prepare and recover for that opportunity. I think the guys are very committed and they have the teamwork to succeed, but we have to keep fighting and believing.”
On Kennedy Igboananike:
“He’s been very important this season. He is doing a great job for the team, not just in scoring goals – which is very important for a striker – but he’s also doing a great job as a leader in the locker room and as someone who steps up in important moments. We are very happy with his performance so far.”
On Gilberto’s status:
“Gilberto had issues last week after the game against D.C. United. He got better and he was in full training the last couple of days, but yesterday before training he said that he’s not ready to start. He was on the bench, but we decided to use other players tonight. I believe he’ll be fine for the next game, but we have to check on his status when we arrive in New England.”
On Accam’s status:
“He’ll be available for the next game and we’ll see how many minutes he can play.”
On preparing for the quick turnaround in advance of the next match:
“Recovery. Ice baths, nutrition, sleep. Everything that you need to do to recover as quick as possible. It’s going to be a long road trip but we’re ready for it and hopefully we’ll get a result in the next game.”
On the positives from the match:
“I thought the second half we were very good and that’s something that we need to draw on and bring into our next game and the rest of the season. I thought the substitutions Pauno made were spot on, we played extremely well and it’s something to build off of. Obviously you want to build off of it with a result, a point on the road against Vancouver, they’re a great team, and it would have been fantastic but unfortunately we dropped points so we’re going to have to learn from a loss but nonetheless, we’re progressing and getting better with each game and it’s going to be fun to be a part of.”
On the collision with Masato Kudo:
“It was just a dangerous ball over the top and I was trying to cover the space in behind. It’s a 50-50 ball and I took it, I had to protect myself in that situation and it was just a freak accident. I feel for the guy, he definitely got the worst of it. I knew right away, we called the staff over immediately and I wish him the best. We’re brothers in the game and I never want to see anybody get hurt like that and I wish him a speedy recovery. It’s unfortunate but those types of things are part of the game. Credit to the guys on the field cause they responded quickly and no doubt helped him. I wish him the best and credit to both organizations for handling it as well as possible.”
On the match:
“It’s always disappointing to lose, it doesn’t matter when, but it’s more disappointing to lose in the last minutes. We did a good job blocking them, we tried to get our chances on the counter. We had some but didn’t score. We came back in the game which was a good thing and I think we could have scored more but it happened that they scored the second one. We’re not happy with this.”
On the injury to Masato Kudo:
“I think Joao turned him over, it was a smart move because he had blood in his mouth. When I got there, I tried to put my finger in his mouth to take his tongue out so he didn’t swallow it. His mouth was stuck so I forced him to open it and tried to keep his tongue out and then the medical staff came. It affects you but once the game starts again you have to turn your focus back. I’m glad he’s okay, I hope he’s going to be fine.”
On building towards the next game:
“The energy, the spirit, it was a better second half. I think we’re optimistic, we knew it was going to be hard with three games in a row in such a short time. We have to be focused, we have to forget about this game because in two days we play another one. We have to focus on the next game and give our best to do a good job there.”