Another Saturday, another Vancouver Whitecaps suspension. It’s gone so far beyond farcical now that even the opposition managers are moaning about the red cards being dished out.
Matias Laba was the latest victim of the PRO plague, forcing the ‘Caps to play over an hour a man down on their way to grinding out a 0-0 draw at home to LA Galaxy on Saturday night.
Both teams had chances to win it, but neither did, and after also losing Pedro Morales and Kekuta Manneh to first half injuries, Vancouver will be happy to have at least got a point from the game.
With his regular starters back from international duty, Carl Robinson rang most of the expected changes, with Kendall Waston and Tim Parker back marshalling the middle of the defence. And despite the success over the last two games, Robinson reverted back to a one striker system, with Nicolas Mezquida coming in for his first start of the year.
Games between Vancouver and LA are usually fast-paced affairs from the off, and it proved no different on Saturday night.
Both teams enjoyed their share of possession and opportunities in the opening exchanges.
Nicolas Mezquida set up Octavio Rivero on the corner of the box in the 7th minute, but the striker’s low drive was straight at LA ‘keeper Brian Rowe.
LA came the closest yet to breaking the deadlock in the 13th minute when Sebastian Lletget sent a ball across the face of goal, just eluding Ariel Lassiter’s outstretched leg and falling to Jelle Van Damme at the back post, whose shot hit the side netting.
The visitors came even closer three minutes later when Lletget flashed a shot just wide of David Ousted’s right post.
Vancouver were dealt a blow when their talismanic captain Pedro Morales was forced off early with a left hip strain, but with LA’s defence were struggling with the pace of the ‘Caps attack, first Daniel Steres, and then Van Damme, picked up bookings for bad challenges.
Not entirely unexpected the way this season’s been going, but it was a Whitecaps player who was to see red first, when referee Jair Marrufo sent off Matias Laba in the 28th minute for what he deemed to be a studs up challenge on Mike Magee.
Marrufo had a yellow in his hand initially, before being crowded by the Galaxy players and a red soon followed. Just taking a look at our main photo here and LA better be fined for mass confrontation of the referee.
Down a man, it was the Whitecaps that were looking the more likely to score, with Rivero being a nuisance and trying to make something happen, and Techera felt he should have had a penalty when the ball struck Van Damme’s arm from close range.
More bad news followed for Vancouver when Kekuta Manneh was forced off two minutes before the break and the ‘Caps had to use their second sub of the half.
With the first half coming to an end, Jacobson forced a diving save from Rowe with a 25 yard rocket, and the ‘Caps went in at least buoyed at how they were creating missing some key pieces.
Vancouver sat deep in the second half, looking to hit LA on the counter, and they were looking the slightly more dangerous in doing so. Neither side was carving out any clear cut chances, however, with both ‘keepers having little to do.
In a half devoid of action, LA should have taken the lead in the 70th minute when the ball fell to sub Gyasi Zardes a few yards out and the Dane produced a point blank stop, or rather his face does!
Vancouver were pushing for the winner in the closing stages and with five minutes remaining a Techera backheel looks to have played in Blas Perez but a last ditch LA foot sent it out for a corner.
As the game entered stoppage time. LA won a corner on the right. Magee sent it and Alan Gordon rose unchallenged but headed narrowly wide.
And that was it. Vancouver hold on for a hard fought point, but had it stayed 11 v 11, it’s hard to say just how this one would have ended up.
Still, amidst all of the grumbles, the Whitecaps have now recorded back to back clean sheets as they get set for their next two games on the road. Will they ever score from open play again though? And who is next in the suspension club? All will be revealed soon.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 0 – 0 LA Galaxy
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Fraser Aird, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Jordan Harvey; Matias Laba, Pedro Morales (Andrew Jacobson 19), Cristian Techera, Nicolas Mezquida, Kekuta Manneh (Christian Bolanos 43); Octavio Rivero (Blas Perez 74) [Subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Sam Adekugbe, Pa Modou Kah, Marco Bustos]
LOS ANGELES: Brian Rowe; Robbie Rogers, Daniel Steres, Jelle Van Damme, Ashley Cole; Emmanuel Boateng (Bradford Jamieson IV 78), Nigel de Jong, Baggio Husidic (Gyasi Zardes 61), Mike Magee; Sebastian Lletget, Ariel Lassiter (Alan Gordon 67) [Subs Not Used: Clement Diop, Rafael Garcia, Dave Romney, A.J. DeLaGarza]
Thoughts on the match, being a man down and losing two starting players:
“Yeah, mixed emotions. Great character, great spirit, great fight by the group, by the 10 guys. Obviously disappointed we picked up a couple of injuries. That’s what squads are for; I’ve said all along, you don’t complain when players are out away on international duty. Unfortunately, we picked up injuries, but it was just one of those nights for us, tonight, where everything seemed to go against us.”
Thoughts on whether there are too many red cards in the MLS:
“I agree with Bruce’s comment [on there being too many red cards in MLS]. There are too many red cards. Fans pay their hard earned money to watch games of football, watch the best players on the field. Eleven versus eleven. There are too many red cards. Us, as a group of coaches, and the players in there are unsure. We’ve got one of the top midfield players in the league who’s made a tackle today and he’s been sent off. I’m not sure why.”
On the injuries Morales and Manneh sustained in the match:
“They don’t look great, to be fair, at the moment. Again, I just said there, I’m not a doctor. I’m not a referee, either. I can’t give you an update on them at the moment, but they don’t look too good.”
On whether he will appeal the red card:
“Good question. Can I put that on you? What do you think I should do? [Reporter – ‘It’s on you.’]. Right. Yes.”
Thoughts on David Ousted’s match:
“I think it came off his head [the save in the 70th minute]. And he was down, rolling about. I was worried he had a bit of a concussion, then we’ve made our subs, and things like that. He’s a top keeper, we know that, which is why we wanted to keep him at this club. Him, along with the back four, kept a clean sheet against a very good team. Everyone spoke about the superstars that LA has, and they have got superstars that weren’t there, but when you’re talking Nigel de Jong, and you’re talking Ashley Cole, and you’re talking Gyasi Zardes, you know you’re talking top, top players. So we knew it would be difficult. It’s difficult with eleven, that’s why the guys should be really, really proud of themselves today. Fight for 65 minutes with ten men.”
Thoughts on Mezquida and Jacobson’s performances:
“It was a lot of very, very good performances out there by the group, but I think those two were outstanding. You’re talking Nico, got his first start of the season, today, and rightly so because it’s a reward for him from his training. And I just felt he was ready to play and then 25 minutes into the game, I’m asking him to play central midfield, once we lose Matias Laba. He stuck to it, I thought he was a bright spark for us. And I think if we were going to score a goal tonight, probably it was going to come through Nico or a Nico pass. As I said, I thought he was outstanding. A.J (Andrew Jacobson). Listen, I said last week when he played centre back, he’s got a calming presence about him and we needed it because we still have Russell out and Deybi’s away. We were a bit bare in that area, so bringing in AJ was a must and he came on after 25 minutes, he was calm and brought a level of consistency to our play, which was good. We know he defended second half very well, you have to defend in this league against good teams. When you’re down to ten, it’s about being organized, focused, disciplined, talking. You know, the game’s about talking. The guys there, the young group of guys continue to talk and kept their shape well.”
Thoughts on international duty and how it played into who started:
“A lot. Tim (Parker) is 23 years of age and Kendall is 28. Once you get over that hump of 30, unfortunately, even though it’s a day, one day 29 and then one day 30, your mind, your body is different. I say this to all the players because I’ve been there. I just made in attacking areas of the field, I wanted a little bit of freshness, which is why I put Nico and obviously kept Kekuta and Techera in, who Techera looked back to his best today. His energy levels were good, he was a constant threat on the ball, but that was the reason why those two played ahead of Blas and Bolanos.”
On whether he’s disappointed they didn’t get the three points:
“That’s a tricky question. It’s an open-ended one. I’m happy for them because if we wouldn’t have taken anything from the game after the amount of work they put in, I would have been seriously disappointed. So, would I like to be greedy? Yeah, but Welsh people aren’t greedy. So we’ll take a point, we’ll move on. I just saw Bruce in the corridor there, you know, apologized for him for bunkering in a little bit, but we had to do it. We had to get something out of this game. Home games, you have to win them, obviously if you don’t win them, it’s important you get something out of the game. We got something out of the game, so I’m delighted with every single one of them in there today, including Matias Laba. He’s done nothing wrong.”
Thoughts on his save in the 70th minute:
“It was faith. So whatever works, whatever we can get in in front of it to keep it out the net.”
On being down to 10 men:
“I thought the guys did very well out there, a tremendous work ethic. We showed a lot of character, and then especially being down to 10 men it’s about being compact, being focused. We showed that today, and we tried to get up the field once in a while to see if we could nick a goal, but it wasn’t to be today, and the point is a good result.”
On shutting down LA:
“I thought they tried all they could today to get at us, but it was the work of the back four, the work of the midfield that made that nil-nil game today. We were tough to break down, I think that’s why the Galaxy didn’t get the goal.”
Bruce Arena said there are too many red cards in MLS right now, thoughts?
“I said to a journalist this week, I understand what they are trying to do, MLS, by protecting the players, but right now we are trying to take tackling out of the game. That’s not going to purify the game, it’s not going to make any player good to look at, it is especially not going to evolve this league. I understand that the MLS wants to protect us, and that’s a good thing, but it’s misplaced once in a while. I think it ruins games more than it actually benefits the players, and I think it’s something that needs to be looked at. We are in this together, MLS and the players, to develop this league into hopefully one of the best in the world, but I think some of the things are misplaced, and I think it is a duty of the players, as well, to sometimes speak up, and tell MLS that I don’t think we are moving in the right direction with this.”
On players questioning what’s a red card and what’s a fair tackle, and if they knew of rule changes before the season:
“I think we did know a little bit about rule changes, and a little bit more that MLS and the refereeing would be a little bit stricter about it. I think at times it’s questionable whether or not we know what a good tackle is and what is not, and I think it’s hard to determine that. Obviously we just have to keep doing what we are doing, and if the calls go against us, there’s not much we can do. We can only accept it, then move forward and do our best throughout the match.”
On responding to disappointment from Olympic qualifying with United States U-23s:
“It was disappointing. I think, obviously, getting a result down in Colombia with the Olympic team was very big, for the organization, and for us as a team. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the result back home that we wanted down in Dallas. I think, obviously, coming back here, the main thing for me was to just re-focus. It was emotional and it was tough, and it was hard because it was once in a lifetime opportunity, but the best thing you can do is kind of just put your best foot forward, re-focus, and keep plugging away.”
On Laba’s red card:
“I dont understand MLS rules. Tackles are in football. Do they want us to be kids playing with barbies?”
Thoughts on the performance:
“Overall we played well, there’s just been too many red cards in this league. It’s ruining games, it doesn’t make the games entertaining and I don’t think the fans like it. I know about the players but, it seems like every game in this league there’s a red card now. It’s been tough certainly, we were deficient in our ability to create a few more chances. Technically we could’ve been better in the last third of the field. Obviously we’re playing on turf and maybe we’re not that comfortable on it, but that isn’t an excuse. On the other side, give Vancouver a lot of credit, they were very disciplined, they dropped their team back and got in good positions and did the job defensively.”
How did you see the red card:
“I really didn’t, obviously the player went in pretty hard on the attack. I haven’t seen a replay, so I can’t comment on it.”
On the result, and goalkeeper Brian Rowe:
“I think the draw is fair. Brian had another solid game. Our last away game we actually went 94 minutes with a clean sheet, so that part on Rowe’s been good. We’ve played very well defensively this year. Tonight is not a way of judging how we did defensively, obviously playing with an extra man. A point on the road is so important.”
On offensive performance:
“We could’ve been a little bit better, we have to play a little bit quicker. We were very poor on our crossing, we’ve got to do a better job getting players in front of the goal and in dangerous positions. Games like tonight where a team is dropped back and playing with numbers, it’s not going to be a perfect play. You know, we’re looking for the last pass, walk the ball in the goal, we need to shoot more from distance, we’ve got to deliver balls in front of the goal a lot earlier and just be better. But give our opponent credit they did a good job defensively.”
On playing two strikers and not starting Zardes:
“Zardes played two international matches this past week. The players are getting run into the ground and generally what happens with these players is that if you start them they’re dead in the second half. We told them all along we’re going to prepare to play for 30 minutes and that was going to be the case for Robbie Keane if he could’ve played in this game. The travel for the players internationally is way too much, you know even though it respects the international fixture and the window, it’s still very demanding on players to come back with their club teams and play a club game a couple days later, it’s difficult, so that’s simply the reason.”
On no first half goals this season:
“Didn’t put the ball in the back of the net, I guess is the reason. I don’t really think that matters one way or the other.”
On missing players and opportunities lost:
“I’ll sleep tonight. You know that’s all part of it, you’re building your team beginning of the year and you know, we obviously went with some new players today and all. But I thought we played okay, we’ve got to be just be better in those areas and I think we’re probably not real comfortable on this surface and that takes a little bit away from it as well. But we have to be better in those areas, no question about it.”
On new players Cole, de Jong, and Van Damme fitting in:
“I think they’re doing great. They are three very good players, and they’ve got a real good approach to things. You can see that they played well tonight, there’s a lot of quality there. I think as we get into the season, they’re just going to get better and better.”
Hard earned point or two points lost:
“It’s a bit frustrating. I try to take the positives out of it, which we started well. We started pressing and getting after them, pre-red card, which is good. I don’t think they did that much last year and we definitely didn’t do that against Colorado. We’ll try to focus on that. The glaring problem is in the final third. I’ll try to blame it on the turf, but we’ve just got to get sharp.”
On finishing chances:
“We definitely have to take our chances. When we do get crosses, they just weren’t on tonight, for whatever reason. In the grand scheme of things a point on the road is good, but I think we missed an opportunity to get three points tonight.”
Thoughts on Ari Lassiter:
“Ari was great. He hustled, he ran. I don’t think we played to his strengths, but he did good. The kid’s got an incredibly bright future. Today we should have found a way to get him in behind a little more. That would’ve played to his strengths better.”
Ousted had a Man of the Match performance. Thoughts:
“The one save he made was incredible. I didn’t really see what happened, I was already celebrating then not only does he get his face on it, but somehow it goes out of the goal. Hats off to him and their defence tonight.”
On the red card play:
“He came in with his studs. He got me. I don’t know how bad it was, but he definitely got me. I didn’t notice if it should have been a red or yellow. To be honest when I got up, I was asking the ref if he got a card. I was pleading for a yellow, but he got a red, so I’ll have to watch it again on film.”
On league’s view of tackles:
“It’s tough. I feel for the refs. I think the one thing that’s kind of set in stone is that if you show your studs in a straight on challenge and get a piece of somebody, you put yourself in jeopardy.”
On being in a groove:
“I feel good. I’m just trying to play my game, just trying to have fun out there, just trying to make the most of the opportunities I’m given.”
On making good decision:
“I’ve been in the league for a couple of years now, I’ve played in a number of games. I think I’ve got my feet wet and it’s gotten past that point of having those nerves before games. I feel good out there.”
On chemistry with the defence:
“I have a lot of confidence with those guys. The big importance is me having confidence in them and I’m hoping that they share the same confidence back with me. I think we’re on the same page a lot of the time. They’re doing a good job.”
Positives on a draw:
“Our goal was to press and we wanted to come away with three points, but anytime you can get a draw on the road it’s a good result.”
Keeping a clean sheet as a keeper:
“Of course. I can’t control whether we score or not, my focus coming into each game is to try to keep it at zero and keep that shutout. That’s how me and the backline judge our success or failure and I thought we did a great job tonight keeping the shutout.”
On being comfortable:
“I think as you start to get more and more games in a row it gets you into a good rhythm and you know how to prepare yourself best for the game, mentally and physically. I think the more games I string together, the more confidence I feel.”