Vancouver Whitecaps recent four game road stretch seems to have done them the world of good. They finally returned to BC Place to face the Western Conference leading Sporting Kansas City, in a match that was sure to test whether their recent good form was the start of something very promising.
They put in an assured performance to come away with a 2-0 victory, and it could and should have been more. It may have been against a weakened Sporting KC side after their midweek exploits, but it gave a good message of potential things to come from this ‘Caps side.
It wasn’t the most exciting first half, but a fine finish from Cristian Techera five minutes from the break gave the ‘Caps the lead. Tim Parker headed home the second midway through the second half, for his first MLS goal, and Vancouver could even afford a missed Fredy Montero penalty in an impressive attacking second half performance.
Either Carl Robinson is a fan of this starting line-up and formation or the ‘Caps front office have pre-printed a bunch of teamsheets with it and they want make sure they get their money’s worth. Either way, Vancouver went with an unchanged starting XI for the fifth straight match and it paid off.
It was a tad surprising with them being at home, but Robinson clearly doesn’t view the 4-1-4-1 with three DM/CMs as being a road plan only.
Sporting KC made four changes to the team that demolished Seattle Sounders 3-0 with a second half burst on Wednesday night. But they did keep their hat-trick hero Gerso Fernandes in the line-up to try and do more damage to a Cascadian team.
That left a KC side that looked more ripe for the plucking if the ‘Caps had mixed up to a more attacking formation, and the game ended up being devoid of much action or entertainment for the bulk of the first half.
Fernandes looked a constant danger and was making Jordan Harvey and Tim Parker look a little out of sorts without ever threatening to score. He did come close to putting the visitors ahead in the 20th minute when he was in on goal but David Ousted was out quick to deny him a shot and when he eventually tried to play through Latif Blessing, the flag went up for offside, although Kendall Waston produced a magnificent last ditch tackle to knock the ball away anyway.
It felt that the match was going to meander to a goalless half time and needed a bit of magic from someone to kickstart it. That finally game with five minutes remaining, as the Whitecaps took the lead with a sweet goal.
Sheanon Williams broke up the right and delivered the perfect ball to the back of the box for Christian Bolanos to chest down to Techera, and El Bicho hit a fantastic first time volley past Tim Melia for his third goal of the year. A moment of beauty in what had been a fairly ugly match.
That was how it stayed at the half and KC tried to get themselves back into it by taking off Canadian Tyler Pasher, who was making his MLS debut, and putting in the dangerous Jimmy Medranda.
But Vancouver were doing the pressing and won a penalty when Fredy Montero went down in the box after a fairly normal collision. Referee Baldomero Toledo pointed to the spot, but it simply never looked like a penalty. Still, the ‘Caps gladly took it, or maybe they didn’t, as Montero’s weak kick was saved by Melia and Bolanos just couldn’t poke home the rebound.
Would it be a vital miss? It looked like it might be as KC powered forward immediately and Ousted did a great job in denying Blessing with a last ditch grab.
The ‘Caps kept pushing though, looking for a killer second, and Bolanos nearly got it when a quick break saw Montero play the ball out to Techera, who brilliantly found an open Bola, but Melia parried his fierce strike and the danger was cleared.
Vancouver’s quick counter was causing KC endless problems now and they brought on Alphonso Davies to try and capitalise on that. It had an immediate impact with two fast break ending with Bolanos and Techera firing over, with the Bug’s curler just missing.
The Whitecaps were to finally get the goal their play deserved in the 67th minute.
Vancouver won a free kick on the left after a horror tackle on Davies that only led to a yellow for Roger Espinoza when it should have been a red, and probably will be when DisCo take a look. Bolanos floated the ball into the box and it was met by Parker, who powerfully headed home for his first MLS goal.
Parker hit the post with another crashing header, before Melia denied Montero, as the ‘Caps looked to kill the match off in the final ten minutes, followed by a chance for Waston.
But there were no further goals from either side and the ‘Caps came away with an impressive win against the Western Conference leaders. It was a victory that keeps them in sixth place in the West, but closes the gap at the top to six points, with Vancouver having two games in hand.
The second half performance in particular was a sign of how good this team could be when they have everyone back healthy. They still need to help out Montero, who is receiving little to no service, but a brace of assists for Bolanos is encouraging that the Costa Rican is starting to hit his stride, especially with his set piece deliveries.
There’s a lot of positives to take from this one, some negatives. Harvey was poor again, but hey, clean sheet, so maybe we can’t knock him too much. It was the ‘Caps second shutout in three matches, and the chemistry in the defence is starting to really reap rewards.
The Western Conference is looking as tight you would have expected it to be. Every point is vital for Vancouver, even at this early stage, so making the most of their home games is key. That’s three wins in a row at BC Place now, with three more home matches coming up.
The makings are there of a very good Vancouver side, once every is back healthy. These next three matches could be the making of their season.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 2 – 0 Sporting Kansas City
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Sheanon Williams, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Jordan Harvey; Matías Laba; Cristian Techera, Andrew Jacobson, Tony Tchani (Alphonso Davies 62), Christian Bolaños (Nicolás Mezquida 78); Fredy Montero (Brek Shea 85) [Substitutes not used: Paolo Tornaghi, Marcel de Jong, Russell Teibert, Mauro Rosales]
KANSAS CITY: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Kevin Ellis, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic; Roger Espinoza, Illie Sanchez, Soni Mustivar (Benny Feilhaber 56); Gerso Fernandes, Latif Blessing (Cameron Porter 70), Tyler Pasher (Jimmy Medranda 46) [Substitutes not used: Adrian Zendejas, Ike Opara, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Daniel Salloi]
Thoughts on the match:
“It’s nice to be back home. I think it took us a little bit of time to get into the game. I think we weren’t at our levels in the first half, but we went in 1-0 at halftime. Wonderful goal, super technique, super cross, super touch. But I think we needed to lift it, because they’re a good team, the standings don’t lie. I challenged them at halftime, I said ‘we need to up it, otherwise we’ll get into a right game’. And we knew it would be a difficult game, and it proved to be that. But key moments in games turn games and they went for us today.”
On already getting halfway to last year’s home win total:
“We need to be better, all around, and I said that to them. On a daily basis, you need to work hard. That’s a prerequisite and I demand that. I’ll give you a bad game, a bad touch, things like that. But you work hard, if you don’t work hard then you won’t play. That’s pretty simple. If you do, these boys have got quality in that locker room, and they showed it today. It wasn’t the prettiest, but second half I thought we played some wonderful football. Disappointing we missed chances, we did have a number of chances. But with good teams they’ll always have their chances as well. Their chance came right after our missed penalty. So another big save by David.”
On consistency and unchanged line-up:
“I gave it lots of thought, I do. It’s already in my mind what I’m going to do Tuesday and Saturday now, because there will have to be changes. Sometimes you get it right when you win, or get a result or performance, and sometimes you don’t. So lots of thought has gone into it. I just felt it was right. But at halftime, maybe you would have seen three changes then.”
On Tim Parker’s first MLS goal:
“He’s been strong. He’s been very professional. We talk about it all the time with our young players, you have to that. You have to have a discipline, off the field. He’s got that. But his performances have been very mature. I think he’s been strong. I think the first half, there were areas that he needs to tidy up, and I told him. He responded in the right way. When you have a dig at players, or a pop at players or tell them some things they don’t like, they go one of two ways, and Tim certainly goes the right way. So another strong performance by him, and Kendall, a clean sheet for these guys – the defenders and the goalkeeper. But he needs to continue to do it, because he’s got aspirations as well.”
On Cristian Techera’s performance:
“Sometimes you’ve got to be honest in this game, and if you’re honest and players are good guys – they’re all good guys in there – they want to do better, they want to try to play at the highest level they can. If it drops below, you can’t sugar coat it, you have to be honest, and I think some of us weren’t good enough last year. I told Cristian and he’d come in fitter, stronger. He’s healthy, which is good, [and] he’s playing with an enjoyment. You’ll see the goal – wonderful goal in the first half – and the crosses and the directness, of one-v-ones. But I see little things, like him tracking back, like in the 89th minute trying to get a second goal, and things like that. That’s what pleases me the most. Because you have to be fit in this sport, you have to be fit for 94 minutes, because there always seems to be four minutes at BC Place.”
On playing the same line-up for a fifth straight match:
“There’s little tweaks here and there. Those are the only players I’ve got fully fit at the moment. I’m missing a number of players. I’ve just said to them in there that when players become healthy, competition will rise. Challenges for your starting spot will rise. The strong will come out and the weak will have to get their head down and fight again. And that’s what pleases me the most. You know, we’ve been consistent, we’ve performed, we’ve got some really good results. Today was a really good result in front of our home fans, which is important. That’s three points and we move on to that big game Tuesday night.”
Thoughts on the Montreal game:
“Tough game. They’re all tough games in MLS and those in the Canadian Championship. It’s a tough game. You know, we threw it away last year. It was heartbreaking. I’ll rest some guys, there’s no secret there. Players will get opportunities to play because we’ve got five, six games in a three-week span. So when you get your opportunity, I just suggest you take it because when these healthy boys are coming back as well, it’s going to be great competition. I’m going to have lots and lots of headaches.”
Is the plan to bring up some WFC2 guys for MTL game?
“Yes, it is. We’ll go through that now. Literally the guys are talking about it in there already. They had a break in the USL schedule but there was a number of guys that I wanted to bring in to try and trim that down to see who I pick for the first team game on Tuesday. So there will be a number of guys who are involved.”
On Matias Laba getting a late yellow to be suspended for next MLS match, and if he’ll play Tuesday now:
“Yeah, maybe. I’ll sit down with Mati. I’m frustrated cause [it’s] an 89th minute yellow card. That’s what bugs me. There’s no need to do it. And I said that to him. He’s disappointed. He made probably about 17 challenges today and he wins them all and the one he mistimes, I don’t know.”
On tonight’s result:
“You know its football, Kansas City plays really well with the ball, that’s why they are in first place, we tried to press them and we were happy to score on the first chance and we got it. Football is about goals, it doesn’t matter if you get 60 percent of the ball, if you don’t score, nothing happens. The second half, we scored on the set piece.”
On the first-half goal:
“I was lucky because I tried to play quick to Techera and his first touch is a great touch. I think it’s a beautiful goal.”
On playing well at home:
“At home, you have to win every game. Last year, we lost many games at home and that’s why we didn’t make the playoffs so we try to do everything positive when we play at home or away.”
On set pieces:
“We spoke a lot this week that we have to practice the set piece. We have good quality chances when we make the set pieces and we have big guys too. I try to make good passes to the box, that’s part of my job, the game is so close and the set piece can open the game.”
On tonight’s home win:
“For me and the guys in that locker room, if we come here and don’t perform in front of our fans we’re letting ourselves down. All that hard work we did on the road to get those six points means nothing if we don’t come home and take care of business, so we talked about that all week and we came out today and we did it.”
On his chemistry with teammates:
“As the weeks go on I have started to feel more comfortable with the players that I’m playing with on my side. That’s the result of training day in day out with those guys. It’s been a good relationship with me and Techera, and me and Kendall, just trying to do my part and luckily today I got a good cross and we scored.”
On the team’s potential:
“I have been in the league eight years and this is definitely the most excited that I have been to be on a team. I think that this team has everything to make a deep run and to be successful in this league. I’m excited and I hope everyone else is.”
On defending and finishing:
“I thought we did a good job limiting their chances. They might have had one or two clear chances, but David did a good job smothering that. I thought we could have had five goals tonight. We definitely have to do better on that end to really punish teams and put them away and not give them a sniff going the other way.”
On the work the team puts in:
“This team is a team that day in day out comes to work. Even the substitutes that come on, you can see the work that everybody does for each other is something that I haven’t seen, it’s a credit to the team and the guys we have in that locker room.”
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
On tonight’s result:
“Vancouver, look they scored two goals. The first one kind of, it probably mentally broke us because [with] three games in eight days, we’re pretty tired. We tried to make some changes to give us some legs. The guys who came in did well, it was just hard to do wholesale changes across the board. So at the end, they deserve three points, we didn’t score any goals. So we didn’t deserve it.”
On the Espinoza tackle:
“I only saw it from far away. The only thing I’ll comment about that is, that never would have happened if the foul on Benny Feilhaber right before it got called. That actually never would have even happened, we would have been shooting on their goal. So I was too far away to see it, but I was close enough to see the other foul, which didn’t get called.”
On Tyler Pasher:
“He was with our USL team last year. He’s got very good qualities in regards to he’s a pacey kid, very good dribbler one-v-one. He’s very good in the final third. He’s got a tenaciousness to him. This was a big step for him, but it was a good introduction into MLS and I think he’s got a good career ahead of him. He’s got a good mentality.”
On the change in the Whitecaps:
“They’ve changed their formation. They play now a 4-3-3. I think Montero’s a very good forward, he’s a good addition for their team. I think he helps a lot just because, I’ve always thought he was a good forward when he came into Seattle. He was excellent for them. He’s a very high quality player, so I’m sure that addition has been good. After that, you know I don’t focus too much on the opposing teams.”
On short rest from Wednesday:
“Well, we’ve done this twice now over the last three weeks. In both situations we’re travelling away on the third game, which I think that part has to change when you’re doing a three game schedule. I think you should be playing at home on the third game, not away, from a scheduling perspective that’s two times now in a row. So that has a big effect. You lose training days, and the amount of travel you have to do is taxing on the players.”
Thoughts on the game:
“We came out with the right mentality. We came to someone else’s stadium and played extremely well in the first half – the way that we were able to move the ball in play and dictate the tempo. They scored a very good goal in the first half so we’re down 1-0. We come into halftime and we really just talked about going out in the second half and doing the same things we did in the first half. Unfortunately, I think we died off a little bit in the last 20 minutes. It would’ve been nice to finish off the game better but we’ll move on from this and we’ll get better from it.”
On the busy stretch:
“We had some things that were challenges today – having to travel here, having to play on turf, having to play a mid-week game and they didn’t but at the end of the day those things don’t really matter. We still have to come out here and perform and like I said, we’ll move on from this and we’ll get better.”
On Travis Selje:
“One thing I would like to say from our guys is you know, we would like to pay our respect to Travis and his family, and our condolences, and we’re all a big family here at Major League Soccer so we’d like to pay our respect to him and his family.”
Thoughts on making his MLS debut:
“Obviously I was excited to come in and get my debut, in the starting line-up playing up front. It took me a bit to get into the game and see what it was like playing at this level and as the game went on I started to get more comfortable and comfortable, and I really started to settle in with the team.”
On the transition from USL:
“Definitely a big difference. A lot faster, a lot less time on the ball. But I felt as the game went on, I started to get more comfortable and really kind of adapt to the speed of play as quickly as I could. It was just good to get a bit of experience and build from it.”
On the match:
“I thought we started well in the first half. It was just one of those games where they had a good cross, good finish, and it kind of set us back a bit. Some mistakes that we made we got punished for, but at the end of the day I think it was an okay performance from us.”
On team fatigue from Wednesday being a factor:
“Maybe, but the guys came out with the same ambition we do every single game, so it was just an unfortunate result for the team.”