“Déjà vu” said Carl Robinson, and the 22,120 fans inside BC Place, as Vancouver Whitecaps struggled to convert their numerous chances and fell to a First Kick defeat to a Canadian rival.
Although there were some positives for the Whitecaps, namely two set piece goals and a strong fighting spirit, adding attacking talent to take more chances, yet keeping them on the bench for most of the game, is one of the things that stands out the most.
The other was the poor showing of the usually stellar defence, with the back four ripped apart at times by Ignacio Piatti, who grabbed two goals and an assist. Fraser Aird had a tough MLS debut on the right and was given a torrid time. He wasn’t alone, and there needs to be an analysis of the tracking back of the midfield players to prevent the defence having to deal with two men so often.
But that’s the game in the history books. The Whitecaps started in the same poor way last season and that didn’t turn out all that shabby for the most part (ending aside). With two crucial Western Conference match-ups coming up fast, Vancouver need to remedy their ills pretty quickly.
For now, here’s our match report and postgame reaction from both locker rooms, following Vancouver’s 3-2 First Kick loss to Montreal.
REPORT (by Steve Pandher):
For the second straight season, Vancouver Whitecaps dropped the opening match of the season to a Canadian rival, this time 3-2 to the Montreal Impact. Didier Drogba may have been posted missing, bit it was another Montreal superstar, Ignacio Piatti, who would be the difference-maker, picking up a brace of his own and setting up Dominic Oduro.
Jordan Harvey and a last ditch header from Kendall Waston made the result closer for Vancouver, but it wasn’t the way the Whitecaps had hoped the new season would get underway and it’s back to the drawing board in a number of areas for the ‘Caps.
The opening spell of the match saw the Whitecaps control the majority of the opening 15 minutes, getting the better chances and controlling possession.
But it was the Impact who started the scoring when their captain Piatti opened his 2016 account in the 19th minute. After taking a pass from Harry Shipp, Piatti was able to get by Kianz Froese, Christian Bolaños, Fraser Aird and Kendall Waston on his way to firing a blistering shot past David Ousted to give Montreal a 1-0 lead.
It was an almost immediate response from Vancouver when Octavio Rivero curled a shot from just outside the box over Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush before only being able to look on as it bounced off the bar.
Rivero would get another chance just before the half hour mark when he was sent in on goal but couldn’t corral the ball, allowing Bush to close down the angle and make the save.
The Impact doubled their lead in the final five minutes of the half when Dominic Oduro took advantage a massive mistake by Ousted. Piatti sent a pass ahead of the speedy Oduro, who was being marked by Waston, with a charging Ousted looking to knock the ball into touch, but the keeper missed the ball allowing the Ghanaian striker to get an easy goal into the empty net.
The Whitecaps got one back just before half time when Jordan Harvey converted a free kick from Pedro Morales from close range, to give the home side a spark going into the break.
But it was a spark that never fully came alight.
The first 15 minutes of the second half played out similar to the first, with Vancouver getting the better chances and unable to convert. Rivero missed on a cross from Aird, while Morales was unable to convert from inside and outside the box.
With just over 22 minutes to go in the match, Bush came up with what can probably be described at the game defining moment, robbing Rivero with a diving save from a close range header. It was a feat he duplicated seven minutes later when he flicked a Waston header over the bar.
Montreal were able to limit Vancouver’s chances for the remainder of the match and in the process added a third to their total on a break when Oduro sent in Piatti, who out-waited Ousted to score his second of the match from a tight angle with two minutes remaining.
Waston reduced the deficit back down to one in the closing seconds, when Waston rose to powerfully head home a pinpoint Bolaños corner, but there was no time left for one last hurrah.
After dropping their second straight home opener, the Whitecaps will now go on the road to Sporting Kansas City where they will look to get a result similar to last season second match and come back with a win.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 2 – 3 Montreal Impact
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Fraser Aird, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Jordan Harvey; Matias Laba, Kianze Froese (Blas Perez 66); Christian Bolaños, Pedro Morales, Cristian Techera (Kekuta Manneh 61); Octavio Rivero (Masato Kudo 81) [Subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Pa Modou Kah, Sam Adekugbe, Deybi Flores]
MONTREAL: Evan Bush; Donny Toia, Laurent Ciman, Victor Cabrera, Ambroise Oyongo; Marco Donadel (Calum Mallace 56), Eric Alexander; Harry Shipp, Ignacio Piatti, Lucas Ontivero (Anthony Jackson-Hamel 53); Dominic Oduro (Hassoun Camara 90+1) [Subs Not Used: Eric Kronberg, Wandrille Lefevre, Maxim Tissot, Kyle Bekker]
Thoughts on this start of the season:
“It’s not nice when you lose games of football. I think we gifted them, Montreal, the win today. That’s an honest assessment. We scored two goals at home and gave three bad goals away, you don’t win games. We’ll give them the three points and we’ll move on.”
On whether this is a flashback of last season:
“Yeah, Déjà vu. I think that team played in red, this one played in white. It’s similar, what can you do. I said to the group of players in there, ‘If you give away bad goals, you’re not probably going to win as many games as you like,’ so you have to take it, you have to accept it and move on.”
Thoughts on Kianz Froese:
“I thought he did well today. He should be proud of his first home start here in the league. He should be proud of that. Based upon preseason, I thought he had the energy and in his preseason performances, I think he deserved the nod. I told you all along, we’re going to try and develop our young players. He got the chance today and he didn’t let himself down.”
On whether being down 2-0 is too large to come back from:
“It’s not easy, I’ll tell you that. We give ourselves a shout just before halftime with a free kick. We kept knocking at the door, unfortunately in the second half, unfortunately we couldn’t open it. Their keeper made a couple of good saves, we missed a number of chances. We gave ourselves an even bigger hill, we tried to come back again. As Kendall said, the character of that group is phenomenal. It’s never in question. We kept going until the end because it’s not nice when you’re at home and you’re down by two goals, twice. But you learn from it and you move on.”
On Fraser Aird at fullback:
“I think Fraser, if you speak to him, will be honest. He did okay in the game. Obviously the goals, Piatti is arguably their best player, who had a fantastic game. You give players credit when, Kendall might not, I will, when they do well. He scored two goals, he was a big influence in the game. We were unable to handle him at certain times. Not just Aird, but a number of our guys. He’s got to brush himself down and move on.”
On whether tracking back is an issue:
“I’ll review it. I’ll watch it tonight. I’ll see after the Seattle and KC game. We’ll analyze it and we’ll speak to the group on Monday and Tuesday about it. It’s gone, unfortunately we can’t get those three points back. But if there’s areas for improvement, which I’m sure there is, and I know there is, we’ll identify it, we’ll show the boys. We’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
On inspiration of last season and bouncing back from an opening loss:
“It does. We have character in that locker room. If you don’t think you’re going to lose games of football this season, in Major League Soccer, you’re in for a rude awakening. We just lost our first game so we just have to brush ourselves down.”
On Rivero’s performance:
“I thought he played very well. But he didn’t score a goal, the keep made some good saves. He hit the crossbar; sometimes that happens. If he wasn’t getting into the area to create the chances and be there, then I’d have the concern. But I have no concerns about Octavio. Obviously, he would have liked to put one away for himself. In the last two games of preseason, he did.”
On outshooting Montreal:
“Yeah, we didn’t score from open play. We’ve got some great technicians on the field there. It’s different when you’re playing in front of twenty odd thousand. Sometimes you get the luck and sometimes you don’t. Today we didn’t get the luck; we didn’t put the chances away. If we continue to have 22 shots, eleven on target every game, I think it’s safe to say that we might score more than two goals in a game.”
On the next two matches being on the road against KC and Seattle:
“Listen, when you lose at home it always hurts. So whether you’re playing Seattle or KC, after, you have to play all the teams. It’s a very tough league. There’s not much of a difference between the teams; every team strengthens at the end of each year. The teams out of the playoffs want to get in the playoffs, the teams in the playoffs want to maintain it. We’re no different. It does make it a little more important but we’ll go there, we’ll brush ourselves down and we’ll go there full of confidence, because we played some good stuff at certain times today, that we just have to limit the bad goals.”
Thoughts on Kudo and Perez and their respective debuts:
“I think they both did well, they gave us different options. Blas coming in at the 60-minute mark, obviously he’s a hold-up player, he’s a presence. I tried to bring him on to change things up a little bit, and I think it worked. Kudo, Masato, coming on for the 15 minutes, we can see that he has great movement. The chance didn’t fall to him, which I would have liked, but they are all just picking their fitness up. They should be pleased today.”
Thoughts on Kekuta Manneh and his pace:
“I think Kekuta is one of a number of guys that we have got that aren’t up to full-speed at the moment. So we have to continue working with it. It’s a long season, we know that. If you try and rush him back and he’s out for 3, 4, 5 months, then it’s, you know, a stupid decision. And we don’t make stupid decisions here in this club. We’ll be patient with him. He’s probably not able to last 90 minutes at the moment. So we’ll get a good weekend of training under his belt and we’ll see where he is next week.”
On the first two Montreal goals:
“We’re going to try to do better in the next games, obviously. Sometimes the communication is very important. I think that, even that we tried to keep going, it’s not that easy to be down in the score. We know we have to be sharper, we can be sharper. Last season, we lost our first game, we got to the playoffs. We know that this year we could do it, we have to work harder.”
On playing against Piatti:
“He’s a good player, but I don’t care about them. I care about my players and I think that if we, as a squad, if the 11 players are sharp, we could win against any team.”
On whether he was pleased to start the season with a goal:
“Yes, but I rather win than score.”
“We dug ourselves a hole. We came out a little flat. With that said, I thought we play alright, just couldn’t finish and made some mistakes.”
Happy with scoring himself?
“Not really. We lost the game. Similar to last year, hopefully we bounce back and go on a run and pick up points.”
The play of Piatti
“He’s a good player. We knew that going in. We tried to limit him, but he got on the ball quite a bit. We’ll watch some video and see where we went wrong.”
Using last year’s TFC defeat to bounce back again this year:
“I think we’ll use it a lot. It’s a different team. I think we have a better team this year. Hopefully we go to Kansas City and get a result. That’s all we can go on now.”
Thoughts on Blas Perez and Christian Bolanos:
“Perez, you can see his quality coming in. He bounces the ball outside, gets in the box. That what you want from a striker. You’ll see more of that to come I’m sure. Bolanos, calm on the ball. Good touches. He slows the game down when he wants. We’re going to try to transition that into goals. Going to Kansas City, that’s what’s on our mind. It’s disappointing. I thought we beat ourselves this game. We lost the game as opposed to them winning it. I guess if you want to be cliched about it.”
Tough debut for Fraser Aird:
“I thought Fraser player alright. It was his debut in MLS and I thought he did a good job.”
Thoughts on the match:
“In this league it is so hard to win on the road, even if I saw some scores today and there has been some away teams that won but, for us, we wanted to come here and have a good performance and, to be able to build on what we have been working on. I think the guys fought hard out there and we were able to produce and score goals and, in the end, we were able to open up.”
On playing with possession:
“I think it was important for us to manage the tempo of the game and I think we were able to slow the game down when we needed to, and speed it up when we had to. I think we had a good balance in our possession, to be patient enough, to find those half spaces, and when we did we put them on their heels we created chances through that.”
On playing without Drogba:
“Obviously we can’t take away what Drogba brought to the team in the last season, he is a superstar, but I stressed the importance of everybody else in this team and the roles that they play and the responsibilities that they have. Each one of them is important and when they get their opportunities to perform, it’s about moments. They have to be good in those moments and, from our keeper all the way to our last player, we have to have a mindset that is shared and with the quality of players that we have we feel that we have a balanced attack, and when Drogba comes back he is going to help us more.”
Thoughts on Piatti’s performance:
“Today he was exceptional. He played probably one of the best games that I’ve seen him playing. He was so good on the ball, every time someone came he dribbled, in different moments he made it look easy and to be able to score two goals like that, on the road, was great. He is a first class player and when he plays like that it’s hard to defend.”
Thoughts on the defensive performance:
“I think overall we had a solid game. Alexander in the middle, Donadel as well, the two fullbacks fought hard. Everybody contributed to this win and honestly we are in heaven here. I’m very happy with the way we performed and we want to be a complete team at the end of the day.”
On this being the best birthday present ever:
“I suppose so, I will not recount some of the birthday gifts I got, but today to get our first win on the road in Canada during regular season it is huge for the club, huge for us. Compared to the way we started last year, getting the three points on the road it is huge.”
On the save on Rivero:
“It was instinctive. I put myself in a spot, as you train to put yourself in, and I was able to react and catch that ball on the line. Unfortunately they had more free headers than we would like them to have, but that’s why you have a goalkeeper there as well.”
On other players stepping up without Drogba:
“I think a lot of people out there didn’t believe us when we said that, and I told Pat after the game that all we needed was Ignacio Piatti to jump five players and score amazing goals in order to find a goal. No kidding, I think that the third goal is a prime example of working together as a team, dribble, cut out on the counter, had a great touch around and find Ignacio for a one to one situation. We have lots of guys that can score a goal this year and Ignacio Piatti showed it tonight.”
On today’s win:
“We played well. All we have to do is stay compact and weather the storm. They came at us really hard but we were able to stay compact and stay disciplined. We had our chances, we were able to find the net. We did well in our execution.”
On scoring a goal against David Ousted:
“[Ignacio] Piatti and I, we talk all the time. It was fortunate that there was miscommunication between the goalkeeper and the defender. As a forward, you always need to capitalize on your chances. I had my chance and I just put the ball in the net. We had a little bit of luck on our side and we were able to score. I just told myself not to mess it up. Sometimes you think you have a lot of time but you have defenders running at you so my whole mindset was not to mess it up.”
On Evan Bush’s performance on his 30th birthday:
“He’s buying everybody drinks tonight. He played fantastic. He saved us a couple of times. To me, even though Piatti scored two goals, I would say he was the man of the match. Piatti can fight me on that but he saved us a couple of times today.”