Report and Reaction: Long road stretch gets off to worst possible start for Vancouver Whitecaps
An already long stretch of road games just got the feeling of being that little bit longer on Wednesday evening.
Looking at what lies ahead for Vancouver Whitecaps in June and heading into July, the opening game of their five game road stretch, against Montreal Impact, looked, on paper, to be their best chance of a win. On grass, it was a whole different matter.
The Caps played well at times and had their chances to not just grab a draw but all three points. But that continued inability to convert their chances cost them once again.
The decision to rest his strongest players for this much more winnable match rather than Saturday’s tough task down in LA, could be one that Carl Robinson is left to rue.
Here’s our match report of the ‘Caps 2-1 loss and postgame reaction from both locker rooms.
Vancouver Whitecaps made it three losses in their last four matches, crashing to a 2-1 defeat in Montreal. Despite dominating play against the Impact at times, the Whitecaps couldn’t get the job done in front of goal and once again it proved to be very costly.
Jack McInerney gave Montreal a first half lead, but Pedro Morales gave Vancouver a lifeline with a penalty 11 minutes from time. The Whitecaps sensed a winner but as they pushed, the Impact hit them with an 83rd minute winner from Ignacio Piatti.
With one eye on Saturday’s trip to LA, Carl Robinson made six changes to the starting line-up. A risky move in for the more winnable game of the two, on paper at least.
The Whitecaps made an unusually slow start out of the traps and the Impact weren’t much better.
It was the home side that took the lead, however, in the 14th minutes and it was pretty much out of nothing.
A weak clearance from Diego Rodriguez fell to Lauren Ciman about 25 yards out and his dipping volley crashed off the crossbar. David Ousted was beaten all ends up in the Caps goal and was left looking for where the ball had gone. Straight into the path of Jack McInerney as it turned out and the striker made no mistake in firing home the rebound from 12 yards out.
The goal spurred Vancouver on and they took the game to Montreal, dominating play and controlling the midfield, but, once again, without getting the vital breakthrough in the final third.
They certainly came close.
In a blistering spell to end the half, Kekuta Manneh had the ball in the back of the net in the 40th minute but it was quickly called back for offside. Nicolas Mezquida then saw his shot deflected over the bar on the stroke of half time and there was still time for Darren Mattocks to crash an effort off the left post.
Promising signs, but a case of same old, same old for the Caps in the final third?
Montreal started the second half strong and McInerney forced Ousted into a save at his near post in the 50th minute, winning a corner that the Impact couldn’t capitalise on.
Both teams were enjoying possession but Montreal were coming up with the better chances, with Ousted tipping over from Andres Romero just past the hour mark.
Vancouver used all their subs in an attempt to get something from the game and they were handed to the opportunity to do just that when Jordan Harvey was brought down in the box by Romero in the 79th minute. Morales, who had not long come on as a sub, easily slotted home the Caps’ first penalty of the season and it was 1-1.
The Whitecaps’ joy was to be short lived. Four minutes in fact. Piatti was given too much space in the box and collected a pass from Romero to fire home between Tim Parker and Harvey and past Ousted, to put the Impact back in the lead.
Montreal nearly made it three moments later when Anthony Jackson-Hamel headed narrowly wide.
The Caps pushed for another equaliser, but the home side shut up shot and there was to be no way through.
Piatti had the last chance of the game in stoppage time when he nearly scored a fantastic chip over Ousted, but the Dane did well to grab the ball.
A very disappointing loss for many factors, the two biggest being the way that the Caps dominated the play at times but mostly because this was perhaps the most winnable game on Vancouver’s gruelling five game stretch on the road.
It’s only going to get tougher over the next five weeks and the rest of the season. This one could really be costly for the Caps.
FINAL SCORE: Montreal Impact 2 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps
MONTREAL: Evan Bush; Donny Toia, Wandrille Lefevre, Laurent Ciman, Ambroise Oyongo; Calum Mallace, Patrice Bernier (Anthony Jackson-Hamel 81), Andres Romero, Ignacio Piatti, Eric Alexander (Maxim Tissot 63); Jack McInerney (Nigel Reo-Coker 78) [Subs Not Used: Eric Kronberg, Bakary Soumare, Victor Cabrera, Romario Williams]
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Tim Parker, Kendall Waston, Diego Rodriguez, Jordan Harvey; Matias Laba, Russell Teibert (Pedro Morales 74), Mauro Rosales Octavio Rivero 70), Nicolas Mezquida (Cristian Techera 63), Kekuta Manneh; Darren Mattocks [Subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Christian Dean, Gershon Koffie, Robert Earnshaw]
On the overall game:[On TSN radio] “How we were one-nil down at half time was beyond me. We played very well with the ball. We gave away, obviously, a goal in the first few minutes and we were chasing. The character in the second half, we continued to play the way we wanted to play, continued to chase that goal, we got the goal and we let them off the hook again. The second goal could have been avoided.” [On TSN radio] “I can’t fault the performance, the way we played. I can fault the result because we didn’t win.”
On continuing inability to convert chances”[On TSN radio] “Teams are not going to roll over and let you have endless chances. You’ve got to create your chances and sometimes we don’t create enough chances. We created a number of chances today. Are they clear cut ones? No. If you look at the chances we had in the first half compared to the ones Montreal had, they go in one ahead. It’s a learning process. We’ll deal with it.”
On resting players v Montreal and not v LA which is harder game to win:[On TSN radio] “You talk about three games in a week and how you manage that. Effectively, it’s done in results. If you lose a game, it’s the wrong decision. I could have played exactly the same team as Saturday and we lose and it’s the wrong thing to do. Today, I decided to freshen it up because it’s the right thing to do. The energy in the team was good, the performance was good, so it was the right thing to do. We lost, so I’ll have to accept that and will take responsibility for that.” [on TSN radio] “It’s about managing it, but again with managing it, you need to get results. If you don’t get a result, people will question you and say it’s the wrong thing to do.” [in scrum] “I firmly believed this team could win this game, and it showed based on performance that they should’ve won the game. So I’ve got confidence in every single player in my group, and my starting roster was based upon that.”
On going for the win and not settling for a draw:[On TSN radio] “We made our substitutions based on wanting to try and get back in the game. If you put an attacking sub on then obviously you get back in the game and we’ve got attacking players on the field. When we went to 1-1, I firmly believed we could go on and win the game, and so did the group. It’s not naive from us because the worst case was we had a point, but if you don’t do your jobs correctly you give up a point sometimes. Unfortunately we lost a point today.”
On bad start to stretch of road games:[On TSN radio] “We know we’re on the road for five games. This is the first game, unfortunately it’s a loss, which you have to accept. You’ve just got to go and try and win the next game.”
On what they did wrong and how to improve for Saturday:[in scrum] “We need to out our chances away. Football is a game where, if you’re able to take your chances when you’re on top, you’re going to win the game. We were 1-0 behind at half somehow and obviously showed great character to get back in the game. We gave a bad goal, we left him, but it was a good finish, he’s a very talented player, but we could’ve avoided that.”
On the Whitecaps going for the win:
“I think we need to go in and try to get three. I feel like we had the chances going forward today and we don’t want to sit back and get draws in a row, we need to get wins as well. Today it didn’t go our way.”
On the first 15 minutes:
“If you go away from home, sometimes you won’t have the ball. We’re good at that and hitting them on the counter. I thought we did well today creating chances, but we let in two bad goals and that killed us today.”
On Montreal winning:
“I think Montreal was clinical on the chances that they had and they ended up getting two goals. I think there are a lot of things that we can do better but there’s a lot of positives that we can take away from this game. Resiliency; I think we have this never say die attitude that when times are tough and we need to get back in the match, were never going to say it’s over if there’s still time on the clock.”
On the last 10 minutes:
“It’s about being focused for 90 minutes. You can do things right for 85, but if you don’t do the tasks you’re assigned for 90 minutes, good teams will capitalize, and that’s what Montreal did tonight.”
On the win:
“This game was really important; a tie would’ve been like a loss to us. There was some pressure on the guys, and not only fatigue, but from the mental aspect as well, when you’re under pressure, winning like this was huge.”
On a different starting XI:
“We make decisions based on how guys play in games. I wasn’t going to make a lot of changes because it’s very hard to stop the rhythm of the team, but I thought the changes we made were good, and I think it’s important because it keeps everyone on their toes and we need to be fair with everyone.”
On playing at home:
“We have a good feeling when we’re playing at home, and regardless of what we did on Saturday there’s always a way to bounce back. It’s a funny league. Columbus for me is one of the best teams in the league and they got smoked tonight on the road.”
On taking success to the road:
“We need to be a little more comfortable on the ball. We did well with where we drew the line tonight defensively. We didn’t get too high, we didn’t let them get their fast guys in behind us. With our guys up top we do well with when were in transition. From that standpoint we take that on the road, and to be fair you sit back on the road creating a lot of space, and from there we should be confident in exploiting that space.”
After not having played for so long:
“Personally, it’s always great to start the game and have the support of the crowd as well. The most important thing of course is to win, and this was a very important win after Saturday’s performance. We needed to bounce back and now were perfect at home, now we need to start getting points on the road.”
On finding success on the road:
“We need to start finding success in the second half, where we don’t always have the ball and it’s not always easy. But tonight we were alert, concentrated and focused, we didn’t give them great chances and we took advantages of our opportunities. On the road its never the same, we need to be more alert and focused, and more mentally alert.”
This was a difficult match to figure out. The performance wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great either. A lot of people seem to be complaining about Robbo’s first eleven choices. I am not sure if I can blame the guy for rotating his squad. He needs to see what his players are capable of. But the problem is that I think that there are certain players that cannot win. There are certain players that seem to touch supporters’ — and perhaps some reporters’ — nerves.
If a player like Laba, Morales, Waston, or Octavio puts in a poor performance, I think that supporters are likely to excuse them for underperforming on the day — or the month. We’ll forgive them because they have the talent. (You could include most young Canadians in that group, too. Nationalism covers up the warts of some of the younger players in the club.) They’re lucky.
Its the performances from players like Mattocks, Mesquida, Gershon, and Manneh who drive us crazy. We accuse them of not having the touch, the desire, or the IQ to succeed in MLS. Unless these platers put in 8-10 out 10 performance, then they cannot really win. Perhaps supporters are looking for their next JMD?
As a supporter, I would love to sell off Manneh and Mattocks. They frustrate me, and I hate reading about their poor performances on blogs and discussion forums. But I also realize that these players are difficult to replace.