It was a great way for Vancouver Whitecaps to round off their CONCACAF Champions League group games. Another win, in a very comfortable and dominant performance, four goals, and maximum points to finish atop of Group C with ease.
Job done and a top three seeding secured for the knockout stages that get underway in February.
All in all it was a good night’s work, with only a few lapses along the way. The only real downside was a knee injury to Ben McKendry that doesn’t seem as bad as first feared, but is likely to rule him out of MLS and USL action for the rest of the season.
In all honesty, the win was a formality against a Central FC side that is still in the midst of their preseason. But Carl Robinson put out a strong line-up, with ten changes from the weekend draw with Colorado, that was out for goals, and they responded with an excellent team performance that will certainly give the ‘Caps coach a lot to think about for these remaining MLS matches.
Vancouver attacked from the off and it just seemed a matter of time before they took the lead, and it came courtesy of Blas Perez in the 11th minute, when he easily slotted home when the ball broke to him in front of an empty net after some good hustle from Masato Kudo.
The ‘Caps sensed the floodgates are about to open and pressed hard. After a couple of chances went a begging, Perez was in on goal again in the 22nd minute, but was brought down by Keion Goodridge in the box. After some mild arguing as to who would take the penalty, Cristian Techera stepped up and chipped home a cheeky effort, adding to his excellent work in the Champions League this season.
There was more to come.
Vancouver had a few efforts to add to their tally but couldn’t take their chances, and allowed Central to have a bit more of the ball towards the end of the half. Their switching off was to cost them when Sean De Silva scored from a screamer of a free kick just before half time.
With goal differential going to be key for just where the ‘Caps will end up amongst the top three seeds, and who their opponents will be in the last eight, who knows what that brief lapse and goal might mean down the road.
But Central’s strike lit a fresh fire under the ‘Caps and they came out all guns blazing in the second half, grabbing their third four minutes after the restart when Masato Kudo fired home a Techera cross from six yards out.
There were more chances for Vancouver but only one more goal (although Perez did have one called back for offside), with Techera capping off a fantastic individual effort, and great team performance, when he grabbed his second of the night with 20 minutes remaining.
So a comfortable and dominant 4-1 victory that leaves you wondering where such performances have been all year. Of course they’re not playing teams as weak as Central all year, but the more attacking spirit shown, which Robinson eluded to after the match, was something we will hopefully see for the remaining MLS matches. There’s nothing to lose now.
Vancouver will now have to wait until late October to find out who they will face in the quarter-finals and what their final seeding will be. Will they be facing old foes from MLS or heading to exotic pastures new? While the latter would be more interesting and exciting, the chance to progress against a fellow MLS side who are also in preseason, is very appealing.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 4 Central FC 1
ATT: 17,038 (tickets sold)
VANCOUVER: Paolo Tornaghi; Fraser Aird, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Brett Levis (Ben McKendry 64); Cristian Techera, Andrew Jacobson, Nicolás Mezquida (Marco Bustos 64), Marcel de Jong; Masato Kudo (Kyle Greig 72), Blas Pérez [Substitutes not used: Marco Carducci, Cole Seiler, Erik Hurtado, Alphonso Davies]
CENTRAL: Jan-Michael Williams; Kaydion Gabriel (Kadeem Corbin 84), Keston George, Keion Goodridge, Kevon Villaroel (Keron Cummings 52); Nathaniel Garcia (Nicholas Dillon 69), Leston Paul; Jason Marcano, Darren Mitchell, Sean De Silva; Kenwyne Jones [Substitutes not used: Javon Sample, Johan Peltier, Jem Gordon]
On the overall performance and going for goals:
“We played very, very well today. Probably slightly disappointed we only scored four goals because we missed a number of chances. They scored on one of their rare chances. A lot of good stuff. A lot of stuff we obviously need to still work on, but it was enjoyable to watch.”
On importance of top three seeding:
“It’s very important we’ve got one of the top three seeds. You could tell that by the line-up I put out there. I wanted to give some young players so minutes and I did towards the end of the game, when I thought that the game was maybe a little bit beyond them to get back in to it. Even the system I played today was a little bit more attacking than I usually do, based upon trying to get some goals. Credit to the players. They deserve a lot of credit for the four games that they’ve played. They’ve managed to get through a tricky group for us.”
On what qualification means to the club:
“For the club, it’s an unbelievable achievement. We saw Montreal do it. We liked watching them, a lot of positive stuff, but it’s the first time we’ve managed to do it in our history, so we’re delighted. We’ll be very, very well prepared for whoever we face in the next round.”
On getting minutes for young players in this competition, but still win:
“We managed to balance it out today. The first team guys that got minutes, three of them popped up with four goals. That’s great, but we also managed to tie it in with Marco Bustos, Ben McKendry, who’s picked up a slight knee injury, and Kyle Greig and Brett Levis. It’s important for them. They’re fighting to get MLS contracts for next year and it’s a big part of our club – development from Whitecaps 2 up to the first team. If you’re not able to look at them in games like this, and it was very important that we won the game, very important we scored as many goals as we can. but if we don’t play them in games like this then we’re never going to play them. [We need] to see if they’re ready to step into maybe a Cascadia derby on Sunday.”
On if it’s considered a good season getting to CONCACAF Champions League quarter-finals but not reaching MLS Cup Playoffs:
“I think people will have differences of opinions on what is a good season. I went into this season trying to reach the MLS playoffs, trying to win the Canadian Championship, trying to reach the Champions League quarter-finals, trying to win the Cascadia Cup. We narrowly missed out on the Canadian Championship in a heartbreaking fashion, we had to accept that. We’re on the outside looking in in the playoffs. It was important we got through to the quarter-finals and we achieved a little bit of history today for the club. Obviously we’re still fighting for the Cascadia Cup. So make no doubt about it, we’re not just going to let these games pass us by, we’re going to try to salvage something – because we’ve had a rough season. Sometimes you’ve got to go through that, we’ve gone through it, but we’re still fighting, and we will fight until the very end.”
Does he want to face a Mexican or a MLS team in the quarters?:
“Who we are playing against, we’ll deal with. Knowing our luck, we might end up with our neighbours up the road [Portland]. We usually tend to have good games against them.”
Thoughts on the match:
“It was good. Obviously I thought we got off to a good start and put one in pretty early and just kept that momentum going, and obviously put three more in. So it was good to go through the group stages winning every game and I think we set ourselves up for a lot of success and hopefully we get a good seed coming early next year.”
On the chemistry on the field, and taking that into the Seattle match:
“Yeah, just like every game obviously we want to hopefully just carry this momentum in and I thought we could have had a few more goals actually, and I thought we got ourselves in a good position and the service was good and Blas and Masato worked quite well together. So hopefully we just carry this momentum and this chemistry into Sunday.”
On Cristian Techera setting up two goals and his play:
“I thought he was tremendous. He just finds those little pockets and he causes a lot of chaos for the opposing team. He constantly got in good positions to score and to set people up and he’s got a great sense about where people are and great vision and I thought he played really well today. I could be wrong, but I think he’s probably leading in goals so far in this competition, he’s scored quite a few so hopefully he continues that also on Sunday.”
On the team’s performance:
“I think a very good game. I think it was tricky a little at the beginning because it was a game that could be a lot to lose playing here at home against a team that is coming just to show themselves. But I think we did really good especially at the beginning of the two halves, at the beginning of the game and the beginning of the second half.”
On the team scoring:
“Well of course the opponent is different but I think we were quality offensively. I saw more of the spirit of the guys really committing to go forward and to try to score, to create chances, to enjoy also when they play in the box, the opposing box. So at the end we got a few goals and did very good.”
On Cristian Techera’s performance:
“I think in the CONCACAF [games] he’s doing very good so I’m happy for him. You can see he’s a very dangerous player you know. It’s a little bit different from the other players, he’s short, he’s quick, he has a very good left foot and he showed tonight that he can be very dangerous.”
On how the team can take this performance forward:
“We are happy that we won at home, especially for the fans this season, we haven’t done very good at home. So another win to put on the board at home and now we are going to have another two games, on Sunday and then the last one. So we have to make sure that we get the win that we want, that the club wants, and the fans want.”