The wait for that elusive first win in Houston is finally over for Vancouver Whitecaps. The ‘Caps took their strong away record to Texas and came away with a hard fought 2-1 victory against a Dynamo side that had over 20 shots and two thirds of the possession, but couldn’t deal with the ‘Caps fast paced counters.
Kei Kamara fired the Whitecaps ahead from the spot in the 28th minute, against the run of play, before the constant danger of Alberth Elis finally paid off with an equaliser six minutes before half time. But Vancouver’s deadly counter play paid off again four minutes into the second half when Texan terror Brek Shea fired the ‘Caps back into the lead, for what proved to be the match winner.
Carl Robinson made one change from the team that beat Montreal at B.C. Place in Sunday’s season opener. Cristian Techera dropped to the bench with Yordy Reyna moving out wide and Felipe taking on the number ten role in a 4-1-4-1 formation.
It was a battle between the team with the best home record in the West and the one with the best away form over these past couple of seasons, and both sides headed into the match full of confidence after First Kick victories last weekend.
Houston were hoping to build on their demolition of Atlanta and had a couple of good early chances to open the scoring. Andrew Wenger had the first six minutes in, blasting over an Alberth Elis cross from a good position. Mauro Manotas then had a chance a minute later but headed over.
The home side were making all the running, without any shots of note, but Vancouver shocked their hosts when they went ahead in the 28th minute. Kamara was sent to the ground in the box from a push in the back, then picked himself up to fire home the subsequent spot kick for his 100th MLS goal in his 300th MLS match.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 10, 2018
Vancouver were forced into an early change when Marcel de Jong had to be subbed off in the 36th minute with what turned out to be a rib contusion that saw him taken to a Houston hospital. Shea came on, with Alphonso Davies slotting into the left back role.
The ‘Caps had an unexpected lead, but it wasn’t to last and the Dynamo restored parity six minutes before the break when Elis did well to cut inside in the box and drive the ball past Jake Nerwinski, Aaron Maund, and Stefan Marinovic to tie things up at one apiece.
It was a poor goal to lose, with Nerwinski jumping in and both defenders should have got a block on the shot.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 10, 2018
Houston pushed for a second before the interval and Vancouver had a chance on a quick breakaway, but Davies took a step too long and was closed down before he could get a decent shot off.
And that was it for the first half.
The Dynamo nearly got off to a dream start within seconds of the restart but Tomas Martinez’s dipping shot landed on the top of the ‘Caps goal.
But as Houston again enjoyed some possession, Vancouver’s quick counter did some damage to the Dynamo in the 49th minute.
Shea picked up a clearance in the middle of the ‘Caps half, powered forward, and played a quick give and go with Kamara to surge past the Dynamo defence towards goal, coolly slotting home past Chris Seitz to restore Vancouver’s lead.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) March 11, 2018
Houston tried to up their pressure and Marinovic was forced into a low, sprawling 56th minute save from a quick turn and shot from Elis.
Vancouver responded with a dipping long range effort from Kamara that just skimmed over, in what was the striker’s last action of the match, as he made way for Anthony Blondell.
Marinovic was called into action again just past the hour mark when Andrew Wenger was allowed too much time and space in the box by Maund, turning to get off a shot, which the Kiwi dealt with excellently.
The ‘Caps started to knock the ball about a little, as game management came into play, but they forced a couple of good chances, the best of which being a fierce long range shot from Blondell in the 76th minute that Seitz had to parry.
Both sides had their chances in the closing minutes and should have done better, with neither ‘keeper being really tested, as the six minutes of stoppage time ticked by and finally ended.
It was a great win for the Whitecaps against a Dynamo side that destroyed Atlanta last week. Houston certainly had their chances, and Vancouver had a few palpitation causing moments in defence, but they held firm for the most part to come away with the three points, maintaining their perfect start to the new season.
They’ll now look to continue that with a tough trip to Atlanta next week. Should be another good test to see what this team is made of.
FINAL SCORE: Houston Dynamo 1 -2 Vancouver Whitecaps
HOUSTON: Chris Seitz; Adolfo Machado, Philippe Senderos (Kevin Garcia 46), Leonardo, DaMarcus Beasley; Eric Alexander, Darwin Ceren, Alberth Elis, Tomas Martinez (Arturo Alvarez 68), Andrew Wenger; Mauro Manotas (Romell Quioto 55) [Subs Not Used: Joe Willis, Alejandro Fuenmayor, Oscar Boniek Garcia, Memo Rodriguez]
VANCOUVER: Stefan Marinovic; Jake Nerwinski, Kendall Waston, Aaron Maund, Marcel de Jong (Brek Shea 36); Russell Teibert (Jordon Mutch 70), Efrain Juarez, Yordy Reyna, Felipe Martins, Alphonso Davies; Kei Kamara (Anthony Blondell 58) [Subs Not Used: Brian Rowe, Jose Aja, Nicolas Mezquida, Cristian Techera]
On how it felt to get the first win in Houston in club history:
“It feels great. We know it’s a difficult place to come to. Every team that comes here has to deal with intense pressure. It was no different today. We know they are a good team. That’s why they’ve got an amazing record at home, so we had to weather the storm a little bit, but we planned for it all week. We were prepared for it. We knew that they would put crosses into the box and we dealt with it and when we got our chances, we took our chances. So, a lot of the credit goes to the guys in there from Stefan (Marinovic) to Kei (Kamara) and the subs that come on, but they put a terrific amount of work in today.”
On Kei Kamara’s 300th game in the MLS and his 100th goal and picking up two wins in two games:
“I think it’s fitting that he scored the 100th goal here, as well, at Houston. I know that he’s got affinity here and they love him. We love him in Vancouver now. It’s an incredible feat to score 100 goals. He deserves it. He wanted the ball. I think he’s got the ball and everyone should be congratulating him today on an amazing effort, but from one to 11, the effort that my boys put in was fantastic against a really, really strong home team.”
On Brek Shea’s performance:
“He’s done great when he’s come on. It was an injury to Marcel (de Jong). He was coughing up blood, so we are a little bit worried about that because he’s gone to the hospital. So, we are a little bit scared. Alphonso (Davies) went to left back and Brek came on and he fitted in as if he’d started the game. And full credit to Brek; when he gets his chances, he always scores his chances and he deserves all applause as well today.”
On Alphonso Davies’ performance at left back:
“Well, I didn’t want to play him there, to be honest, but obviously was forced to because of the injury to Marcel (de Jong), but he’s 17 years of age and he looked like he had played left back all his life. So, full credit to him, as I said, but I won’t be pushing him too much to play left back. I think he’s a wide player but having the ability to play in multiple positions is very, very good. And Brek (Shea) offered to play left back as well, but I just thought it was the right thing to do because Alberth (Elis) is a key player for them and I thought he handled him very, very well.”
On the climate change from playing in Vancouver versus here in Houston and the travel difficulties:
“I could say it doesn’t make a difference, but I’d be lying. It’s horrible, you know, and that’s saying it nicely. Our travel is not ideal. We’re up at 7 a.m. on Thursday mornings. We have to be at the airport at 5, but it is what it is. We’ve come here and played well and lost, but we had to find that extra thing tonight to try and get that result. They’re a good team at home. (Houston head coach) Wilmer (Cabrera) has done a great job here and they’ve only been beaten once prior to that. You’re going have to bend a little bit but don’t break, and that’s certainly what happened with us today. So, I can’t give the players in there enough credit.”
On his expectations of Kei Kamara this season:
“Just performances like that. If Kei doesn’t score, I’m okay with that. He will want to score from an individual basis, but he’s got to be a platform to our team. A proper number nine. A true number nine and the boys love playing with him. He holds them accountable. He holds himself accountable and he wants to train every minute of every session. He will not play every minute of every game, and I’ve told him if he keeps playing like that it’s going to be difficult to leave him out. We’re delighted to have him. We took him off because he had a slight groin injury, so we will have to see how he is for next week because we have another long road trip to Atlanta.”
On Felipe Martins’ performance and debut with the Whitecaps:
“Very good. We know what we are getting with Felipe. He’s an organizer. He’s a talker. He’s hard to play against. He wants the ball all the time, which is good. I thought the balance in it today went very, very good at times. Those other times where we were a little bit off it and we were getting a run around. (Jordan) Mutch coming on was important to get him a sample of what MLS is about. It’s not an ideal scenario to put him in in the hot weather, being from England, but he’s got to deal with it and he did. So those two coming on, obviously him and Brek (Shea) as well, was very good.”
On the solid performance of his defence:
“Stefan (Marinovic) came up big, I thought, in the first half. He’s been suffering from flu all week and it was a question mark on whether I would play him or not. I’m glad I did. He came up with two key saves. Your keeper is going to have to make saves here. He really is. Because they do prep here. We saw last week what they were like and I read that people say that it was a fluke last week. It was no fluke. They’re a good team. They’re a top team and they got top attacking players and we knew we had to try to limit their chances and we done it to a certain extent. We kept their shots, I think, at six or seven, but the keeper has to come up big.”
On his feelings and emotions from today including his 100th goal:
“Great win. It’s an honour. I thought I had already had the 100th before, but they said that you have to get 100 in the regular season, so I didn’t know that one makes a difference. It’s an honour to really be playing for the Whitecaps right now and reaching this milestone for this club. Not just that, I’m playing against one of the teams I used to play for with the Dynamo and we were able to get three points tonight, so not just a goal or the milestone and all that, but it was actually really, really a big game. So, it was good.”
On the club making history by winning its first game in Houston:
“It’s good. Being part of history, that’s all you want to do. Being in this league for as many years as I’ve been playing for different clubs, hitting milestones and now again to be here with the Whitecaps and being able to be part of that first win in Houston, against a team that I used to play for, but the team that I play for now, I’m really, really happy to be a part of that history.”
On being an MLS journeyman and how special Vancouver is in comparison to the other teams he has played for:
“I think that’s actually a good title, being an MLS journeyman. It means I’ve met a lot of fans, a lot of people along the way, and I’ve enjoyed it. Vancouver is a special place. It’s a club that the fans have been talking about me for so many years. They wanted me there so being there right now, I just have to give them my all, everything that I have. Right now, the boys in the locker room, the coaching staff, have been really great welcoming me on the team and putting a lot of pressure on me, saying it’s not just about the fans; I’ve got to represent what I have been doing around the league.”
On his next milestone or goal that he would like to accomplish:
“It’s an honour to have all of these things under your belt, but there’s one thing that is not under my belt, is a championship ring. So that’s the focus, that’s what I’m playing for right now.”
On his thoughts after the match:
“It was a tough game because we know that playing here is always difficult. The Dynamo are a great opponent and this a great stadium. It’s tough because they have high quality players. We know that (Alberth) Elis is a top scorer and he showed this time. We knew that we had to take advantage of all the opportunities we had, for as little or as many as they could be. Thank God, we were able to take advantage of them and that was the key for this game.”
On his analysis after the match:
“Honestly, I think the first half was the toughest. We gave Houston a lot of the initiative, we were blocking and they still had a lot of space, and we all know that with enough space they can very dangerous. In the second half, we were able to regroup, we were closer together and we tried to make Houston play a lot on the outside and risk the ball more; also, we defended our goal very well. We were successful because we were running in front of the ball and not behind it, because (Alberth) Elis and (Romell) Quioto have speed and they are tough opponents. Thank God, we were able to execute when the Dynamo were not well position in defense.”
On the momentum they have:
“We are working on it. It’s still a very long season, but it’s good that we are on a good start. Hopefully we can maintain the positive start and keep improving, because there are always things to improve.”
His thoughts on the game:
“I’ve been telling the players that throughout the season we are going to have these types of games where teams are going to come, are going to drop and try to counter attack on us because they see our strengths: speed up front. I think the game plan was very good and we created very good chances in the beginning of the game, but we did not put the ball in the net, and when you don’t punish your opponent then you give them a chance to do what they did. They took a penalty kick and then they started defending and trying to steal the ball and counter attack in transition to try to score another one. Even though we tied the game and we were dominating in possession, we weren’t sharp to finish our possibilities, and, in the end, we didn’t have the best game offensively. The guys that went in, they tried also but they weren’t sharp enough to be able to finish. We had an injury with Philippe (Senderos), that’s why he was subbed at halftime. Then Romell (Quioto) and Arturo (Alvarez) went in, they made that effort, they sprinted, they moved, they tried, but the other team managed to kill the time. I think that in this case, the referee didn’t have a great game managing how they were diving for everything, killing the play of the game. When you’re playing at home you want to go, and when you’re the visiting team you want to kill it, especially even when you’re winning, and he allowed them to kill the game. Too many stops, too many guys blocking across then diving, cramping, wasting time and I don’t think they had a good game in that aspect. Managing the game and allowing them to do what they wanted to do: kill the time and break the rhythm of the game. At the end, they scored two goals and we only scored one. I think, for sure, they missed the penalty kick, especially in the second half. I was there and I saw that Alberth (Elis) anticipated (Vancouver’s Kendall) Waston and that was a clear penalty kick, for me. Anyway, they have their VAR and they have their referees and they did not see it. At the end, it is our fault, and, in the end, we weren’t going to break them defensively and they took the 3 points and now we have to move forward to start preparing ourselves for the next game.”
On what mistakes, if any, were seen on the goal in the second half:
“We sent guys forward and we were trying to create superiority by adding numbers forward. They just cleared the ball right there and we didn’t manage not only to win the second ball, but to also to stop the game. We need to stop the game right away because they have quick guys. They have (Yordy) Reyna, they have Brek Shea, they have (Kei) Kamara; they have speed. We allowed them to let the ball bounce, we didn’t put pressure and we let them run. In a race, who’s going to win? The fastest guy. And Shea was faster than everyone else on the field, so it was easy for him to beat us in that sprint and he took the chance very well.”
On what he could’ve changed attacking since Vancouver plays a similar style to Houston Dynamo:
“Yes, I think we weren’t sharp because the options that we had, that were clear options, they weren’t put on frame. In the beginning of the game, we were right there creating chances and we didn’t score; and in the second half they got that confidence, they put guys behind just to clear the ball. We weren’t clear enough to combine or to shoot or cross the ball better or to finish that cross. So, it’s part of the game. Sometimes we are going to be able to kick very clearly, but today Mauro (Manotas) wasn’t sharp and that’s why he wasn’t as good with the ball as he normally is. But it is the second game of the season, we’ve been working hard and that’s something that we have to be patient with. I think we improved our possession and tried to create options, but the last-minute parts, in terms of effectiveness, is where we failed, and they were good defending and the game went on and more time passed, they were more comfortable, and we were more uncomfortable.”
On possible foul on Alberth Elis and if he received an explanation on why VAR wasn’t used:
“No, they don’t take it as a penalty kick but I had the opportunity to see the replay on the screen and the whole stadium was yelling because to all of us it was a penalty kick; but again, that’s part of the game and now it’s part of our game. In the first half, it was unclear to me how Philippe (Senderos) was pulled and now how Mauro (Manotas) was pulled also to try to run, but it happens and you’ll see those situations a lot. The problem right now is that sometimes they see that and sometimes they don’t see it; and it’s just that they didn’t review it, so we need to move forward. Believe me, it’s not about if they called the penalty kick or not, but the managing of the game. That’s something that I don’t think anyone would like to play these types of games in MLS. There has to be better managing because the players cannot be winning a game, any team, winning a game and diving and going on the ground and the referee just stopping the game and allowing the athletic trainers to go and waste time, killing the game; and that’s something I’m sure nobody wants to do that. Of course, if I’m on the winning team and my players are doing that and if the referee allows me to do that, I’m not going to complain about it, for sure, but I think it’s something that needs to be more responsible. We need to be more responsible, in this case, I went over there and said, ‘I think that the managing of the game has to be better in that aspect.”
On the team struggling at the end:
“This year we’re definitely trying to make sure that we’re moving the ball better, being simple when attacking and when you find teams that do that like Vancouver, who is not the only team that does that, we have to be able to build the game. We were playing very well but that final product has to be more effective because if you don’t capitalize on that effort then you get exposed in the back because there’s a lot of space.”
On not being able to score in the second half:
“I think it was one of those times where they kind of bunkered in, they had everybody back. There were a lot of crosses, obviously, some of them were really good but someone got a foot in or something. I think it’s just part of soccer. Sometimes we tried to go down the middle but it’s difficult against a team that is bunkered in, so I think we just have to make sure that we get out wide, move the ball faster and get the crosses in that unfortunately we couldn’t get in.”
On this being tougher than last week:
“No, I think every game is hard. That’s how MLS or a professional soccer game is; in any sport it’s like that. We knew that Vancouver was going to be a tough team. They have one of the best records playing away. I think we had a good first half and they really just had three opportunities, and two of them were a goal. Sometimes that’s just how the way goes, and we just need to give it out all until the last minute. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves.”
On Vancouver sitting deeper defensively:
“I think we were all attacking in the second half. They were very tight and compact in that area when they defend in the (penalty) area and waited for the counterattack, and that’s the reason they scored the second goal in the second half. But I think we worked hard, we brought everything on the field, and we were really mad because it’s our home and we don’t want to lose at our home, but it’s part of the game. You can lose; you can tie; you can win the game.”
On feeling like a goal was coming in the second half:
“We thought the goal was coming because we created a lot of chances to score. And then when the score doesn’t come, you get a little disappointed because the clock is your opponent, too, and it’s going down. We made some mistakes when we had the chance to cross the ball or to shoot at the goal, but the effort was great. We’ll rest now, and get ready for the next game at D.C.”
On not being able to score a second goal:
“Yes, our errors cost us the game. We gave the game away. We insisted, but the goalkeeper had a good performance. We have to keep moving forward.”
On the goal he scored:
“It was a play in which I got the pass, stopped the ball and hit it in. Thank God the ball hit one of them and went in.”
On what he has learned so far about the Dynamo:
“We’re going to fight until the end. We have a lot of things to get better at and the tournament has just started. We will continue to work hard.”
On making his season debut:
“I think we had a good game in which we couldn’t finish the play, but we really tried. They were a tough team that came to play defensively and they closed themselves really well. We weren’t able to turn the game around and we weren’t able to score the goals when we had the chance, because their goalkeeper stopped our chances. I think we tried and were better than them, we just weren’t able to finish inside the area.”
On giving an assist in his season debut:
“I think that my individual effort doesn’t matter if the team doesn’t get the results. I think the Dynamo are a very solid team and were better than the other team, like I said before. We lacked the scoring, but they were a tough team. Many teams are going to struggle against them because of their defense. They came here to defend themselves and did a good job.”
On what the team needs to work on:
“I think is all about the different games. Sometimes it’s not all about us, but what the opponent did, too. I think they closed themselves pretty well and made us uncomfortable. They finished both plays they had and for us, even though we had around 21 or 22 shots, we only scored on Alberth’s (Elis).”