A look at Philadelphia Union’s MLS matches in June promised something of a goalfest at the TALEN Energy Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The Eastern Conference leaders had hit nine goals in their three league games this month, but they had also conceded eight on their way to two wins and a loss.
Memories of the exciting 3-3 game between the two sides came flooding back, but with the way the Whitecaps have been shipping goals this season, and their hit and miss strike rate at the other end of the pitch, you also had a potential hammering lurking at the back of your mind.
As it turned out, despite some immense pressure from the home side, the ‘Caps dug deep to somehow come away with a narrow 3-2 victory, leaving Philadelphia feeling like Vancouver have on too many occasions, wondering just how they came out of that match empty handed.
The Union opened and finished the scoring, but goals from Andrew Jacobson, Kekuta Manneh and Christian Bolanos were sandwiched inbetween, as the Whitecaps came away with a big three points on the road.
The big question for Whitecaps fans before the game was whether DP striker Octavio Rivero would be in the starting line-up for this one, after all the transfer rumours of him heading back to Chile. He wasn’t even in the gameday squad, adding more fuel to the fire and Carl Robinson confirmed pre-match that talks were being held to move him on. No real surprise there.
It didn’t take long for the home side to show their attacking threat, when the ball came to Tranquillo Barnetta six yards out in the middle of three ‘Caps defenders just four minutes in. David Ousted was out quick to smother the danger before the Swiss midfielder could get off a proper shot.
Philly were looking strong offensively and pressuring a Vancouver defence that looked shaky, and the Union got the breakthrough in the 14th minute, albeit in controversial fashion.
The ball came to Fabian Herbers unmarked in the box and his effort crashed off the left post, then the arm of Sebastian Le Toux and into the path of Roland Alberg, who continued where he left off midweek and easily fired home, as Whitecaps players appealed in vain for a handball.
Another shocking refereeing decision to go against Vancouver and the fear was that the floodgates could now open, but the ‘Caps got themselves back on level terms just five minutes later.
Christian Bolanos whipped a corner into the area and Philly ‘keeper Andre Blake muffed collecting it, letting the ball slip through his hands and onto former Union player Jacobson, who headed home his first goal as a Whitecaps from a few yards out.
Philly went back to pressing and had Vancouver’s defence scrambling at times, but Nicolas Mezquida nearly gave the ‘Caps a shock lead when his long range strike was acrobatically tipped over by Blake.
But that lead did come four minutes before half time when Manneh picked up a Pedro Morales pass inside the ‘Caps half and ran at the Union defence, beating Josh Yaro all ends up and firing home a shot in off the left post from the edge of the box.
A fantastic goal and somehow, Vancouver headed into the break with a 2-1 lead.
Philadelphia turned up the pressure at the start of the second half, dominating possession and feeling camped in and around the ‘Caps box for a large chunk of it. The closest they came though was when a Barnetta free kick was allowed to bounce untouched through on a goal, forcing David Ousted into a diving save.
For all their play, the Union weren’t threatening the ‘Caps goal, with Vancouver’s defence turning in a solid and spirited display, throwing themselves at every ball.
Keegan Rosenberry had a chance in the 72nd minute but his first time volley flew over from 16 yards out, after some nice build up play by Philly.
Vancouver sub Blas Perez had the ‘Caps first real effort of the half six minutes later, when his shot from the edge of the box was deflected over for a corner.
And it was the play of Perez that set up what proved to be the Whitecaps match winner in the 84th minute. Collecting the ball just outside the ‘Caps box, he shielded it well before setting off the move that ended with Bolanos burying an Erik Hurtado pass, with the help of a slight deflection.
When Richard Marquez fired wide for Philly two minutes into stoppage time, you thought that was that, but the Union grabbed a late consolation two minutes later when Chris Pontius poked it home after Leo Fernandes headed a corner off the right post.
But there was no time left for anything else and Vancouver came away with what looked at times to be an unlikely three points.
But a win is a win and the spirit shown by the Whitecaps will give their confidence a massive boost as they head into the second half of their season. With a number of questions still remaining about this team and some players in it, a win like this may prove to be huge in the grand scheme of things.
They just have to make sure they go and build on that now by winning back to back Voyageurs Cups against Toronto on Wednesday.
FINAL SCORE: Philadelphia Union 2 – 3 Vancouver Whitecaps
PHILADELPHIA: Andre Blake; Keegan Rosenberry, Joshua Yaro, Richard Marquez, Fabhinho (Leo Fernandes 82); Tranquillo Barnetta, Brian Carroll, Ilsinho (Chris Pontius 65), Roland Alberg, Sebastien Le Toux; Fabian Herbers (Walter Restrepo 75) [Subs Not Used: John McCarthy, Raymon Gaddis, Ken Tribbett, Warren Creavalle]
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Jordan Smith, Tim Parker, Andrew Jacobson, Jordan Harvey; Matias Laba, Pedro Morales (Russell Teibert 65), Christian Bolanos, Nicolas Mezquida (Blas Perez 75), Kekuta Manneh (Cristian Techera 79); Erik Hurtado [Subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Fraser Aird, Sam Adekugbe, Cole Seiler]
Is this a statement win?
It was a big win, a very important win because we didn’t take care of business at home last week against New England. We played very well. We made one or two individual mistakes and in this level it catches up on you. So today we wanted to show a little bit of character – and I think we showed a lot of character – and be in contention towards the end of the game and we were. So, all credit to the guys in there. It’s not an easy place to come, this place. We’ve never won here, but we have tonight.
On resilience to come back from down 0-1
Like I said, good character in the group. They get along very well every day and it’s important because if you don’t do that coming into work 300 days a year is a bit… daunting. So the guys work their socks off and make individual mistakes sometimes, and my coaching job is to improve them on a daily basis so we do, and today we showed a lot of character coming back from a goal behind. We haven’t done it too many times but in Major League Soccer in general, teams that concede the first goal don’t usually go on to win the game. We’ve done it well, I don’t want to do it too often to be honest. I like to go ahead more than behind, but when you have the ability to do it, it’s helpful.
On showing dynamic scoring options
Listen, we’re a team and we’ve got to score goals by committee, we haven’t got an individual scorer that can score 20 goals like some teams, and we know that. Will that change? I’m not sure. Players have got to step up, you see it at the Euros now, you’ve got world class players, superstar forwards that aren’t scoring goals but the team is stepping up for them and that’s what we are, we’re a team and we stick together. I don’t really care who scores. David Ousted can score a goal if he wants.
On Octavio Rivero’s status
No we’re just, we’ve been talking and we’ve talking for a couple of days so you’ll see he wasn’t involved in the team today and over the next 24-48 hours, probably something will happen. So as soon as it does I’ll let you know. I’m sure people will write it anyway.
On roster’s depth in this match
You need a roster in this league, it’s important, people pick up injuries, you lose the national players. It’s tricky because you want to identify the best young players – or older players – and they’re in the national’s usually, and when international teams play you lose players and it gives other players opportunities. Usually the teams that are able to use their squad correctly during the season and not burn them out towards the end – because it doesn’t matter what you do in the early part of the season, it’s getting on a run as Portland showed last year. A number of players got a chance today from Tuesday night, we’ll make sure we look after ourselves and prepare for a big, big game on Wednesday night.
On staying in Toronto as oppose to going back home before tonight’s match
It was perfect wasn’t it? Because we won. If we would have lost I would have said no. I don’t know all of the answers and anyone that says that they do know all of the answers, I’m afraid, would be lying to you because whether you travel two days before when you go coast-to-coast or one day before, whether you change your food times/pre-match meals, you do it because you want to try and win a match of football and when it comes off you assume that’s the right thing, but we could probably do the same thing next time and lose. It probably helped us, we made a number of changes which was also helpful as well, so on the fence with that one.
On how difficult it is to play on the road
On the road it’s a difficult task, especially against this really difficult Philadelphia Union team. They have been playing really well, I have been watching from a distance. To come in and get three points, it’s very satisfying. Hopefully a defining moment for our season.
On a short trip for this game
Absolutely, traveling has a huge factor in this league. Percentage wise, you see the home team gets a win majority of the time. Staying in, a short flight over here, I think it really helped us.
On the Manneh goal
Gave us the win, we needed all three goals tonight and he is an important player for us. To get him going like that, get an amazing goal, I mean he took it pretty much the length of the field. It’s huge for his confidence and us moving forward throughout the second part of the season.
On the Jacobson goal
Yeah it’s great, I’m sure it was extra special for him, coming back here tonight. In the right place at the right time. He says those things never fall for him, so it’s good tonight.
On recovering from going down early
You know what, we haven’t done well going down a goal in the first part of the season. So coming back was a huge thing for us, I think it will be a huge thing for our character moving forward. And you just have to keep plugging away. I thought we were able to break them down in the first half, second half we defended because ewe had the lead. But once we got back in that game, we knew we could get chances, we just needed to keep plugging away.
On the overall game and the meaning of a win
I thought it was very important for us to get to winning ways. We have a final coming up on Wednesday and I thought this game would give us confidence going into that game. We played the way we wanted to play and you know we got our goals. Some games, we get chances and we don’t take them and this game we took our chances and that’s what this game is all about. I thought that was the different between us and Philly. I thought they were great but we took our chances. But great effort from the guys tonight.
On the goal he scored
I gambled, when to go forward and when to stick with him. So we won the ball and he was a little bit up the field. So I got some space, and Pedro [Morales] passed me the ball and my thought was to go forward. I know I had a chance, there was one defender in front of me, So I thought I could take him so I ran at him. He had a bit of a cover and I cut inside and I shot it near post and I thought it was a good goal, but again just glad to help the team win the game. Take nothing away from the performance today. I think everybody fought today. I thought we deserved the win.
So, not a feeling that the group is used to – or likes. First loss at home comes exactly at the midway point. Again, the guys are really disappointed, upset, frustrated because on the night I thought we played really good soccer. We had some of our best actions in terms of possessions, movements, the goal. Credit to Vancouver, they made some big blocks, the goalkeeper made a few saves, especially early. When we were buzzing a little bit in the first half.
Again, difficult because we give up three goals at home, which we’re not happy about. Again, getting a little too stretched against a team that counters the way that Vancouver does. They break quickly, I thought Hurtado was dangerous or them, holding the ball up, letting their team move. Obviously Kekuta Manneh in space was a handful for us. I don’t think we gave up a ton of chances, but the ones that we did, we were punished for, and good teams punish you. And Vancouver is a good team. We have a good team too, and that needs to be said. This group fights hard every game; they never quit until the end. On a different night, I think that we could get points out of this one. I thought the performance again was strong, was good. You’re starting to see a lot of good combinations and movement, just got to get the final pass right and finish our chances. Again, on a different night I think we get more goals.
On potential team response after first home loss
They will respond well. They’ve responded to a lot of adversity already this year. Again, we never quit in any game. We have young guys, 3 young guys out on the field, rookies that are fighting their butts off and learning every time out there, and growing from this. I don’t think they they’re losses, you either win or you learn. And we’re learning right now and growing as a team. I still think you had strong performances out there and you could go through every guy and I don’t think there is a single guy that had a bad day. Again, we will regroup from this, we have 2 big games to get better. Obviously, a big rival game in the Open Cup against Red Bulls here, and then we go on the road to Houston, who is playing better under the new coach Wade Barrett. We still have a good team, difficult to lose at home, we’re not happy with it, but we had a good undefeated run here and we are going to start another one.
On concern with defence over last three games
It’s team defence, it’s not the back four, it’s not individuals. Again, we didn’t give up a ton of great looks to them when they would run a play. Dre’ (Andre Blake) makes the one big save; the first goal is a corner kick. Dre’ knows he could do better, and the second one comes off of a really good attack that we have, going forward, have numbers in the box, Quillo [Tranquillo Barnetta] tries to make a play, gets to deflected, kid makes a great first time ball out to Manneh, and Josh is in space, maybe take a foul, stop the play.
But again a young player, he’s going to learn from it, he’s going to grow from it. He had a great game, he played very well for us. The third one is, I take for that because we went to a 3-5-2 and pushed, we took a huge risk and threw numbers forward and they punished us. Again, that one is one me. You do have to lot at all of the goals, how many good goals have we given up? We could go through the last, it’s a lot, I’m pissed about that, don’t get me wrong, and we’ll get it fixed, but a lot of silly goals I would say.
On Tranquillo’s performance
Good, I think he moved us well as a team, he connected a lot of passes. Again, he finds the balance of playing forward and getting back off of Roland [Alberg] or Ilsinho. You can see the way they move and find each other is fun to watch, it’s great for the fans obviously, it’s exciting, it puts a team under pressure, under duress, it fatigues them. Vancouver though, credit to them, they hung on. After the first half, even though we were down 2-1, I still thought we played really well and I thought we wore them out a little bit but they caught their second wind in the second half and got their 3 points.
On C.J.’s absence and potential of finding new players to boost team
No, C.J. is going to be back soon. I think Fabian [Herbers] in his absence has done a great job, he’s created chances from the 1-inch to just below the crossbar there on our first goal, that’s a hell of a shot that he hits off the bar. Fabian is fine in space, he’s doing a great job for us fighting. Do you miss a good player like C.J. Sapong? Of course you do. You always want your full, stable guys, but the thing you don’t see where this is important and it adds us through the 34 games is now Fabian is getting a great experience, he’s not just out there. He is contributing in a major way for us, so we’re happy with him and his growth and where he is at. And C.J. will be back soon, and I like our two forwards, we create enough chances, it’s not an issue. We scored the most goals in the league going into the game. We are ok in that regard.
Maybe it’s a familiarity whenever we play Vancouver. We don’t know each other too well, you know we only play once a year and yeah obviously you watch a ton of tape and you have a good idea of them but it seems like more times than not when we get together it’s 3-3, 3-2, and it’s a little end-to-end and unique with the West teams. We didn’t take care of business and we need to in our home games.
On this game’s effect on Chris Pontius
Chris is a starter first and foremost, he is a starter. On this team he has started every game for us, it was just the situation on this week where he went a hard 90 and he hadn’t gone 90 yet this year and he maybe wants to. He pushed hard in the Chicago game in a game that to be honest should have been easier than it was, he had a lot of running and he took a big knock on his quad at the end of the game and it tightened up. Again, I held him and he jumps in the game and contributes right away so Chris is having a great season for us, he is a great pro, been a big impact to our team. Can’t say enough positives about him, a true professional, great in the locker room and a great addition to our team and again he is going to play a major role down the stretch here for us.
On seeing anything different out of Andre Blake after his return from Copa Break
Again, I mean you can break down every goal, and stop it and rewind it, and it’s a hard position. He’s been seeing a lot of shots, he’s the reason though that we’re in first place in our division. So, I said it at halftime to the group, yes, Dre’ made a mistake on the corner kick, but I actually think if you watch it again he gets clipped just enough that you see it called a lot that it’s a foul. But the message at halftime was that Andre has bailed us out a hundred times there and let’s get two goals and bail him out. It didn’t happen today but I was still happy with the way that my team pushed. Andre is going to be fine, I’m not concerned with him and where he is at, he’ll be great, and we’ll get back on track as a team because we win and lose as a team.
On the game
I think we deserved more today. We played a great game, but at the end, no points and that’s disappointing.
On creating more chances offensively
Yeah, today I think I could have had more goals, maybe two or three. I scored the one and after that we had to keep playing. It was difficult. They scored, 1-1, and then 2-1. You know, at the end had some opportunities with some long balls, but it was unlucky at the end when they scored 3-1. It was disappointing. Of course I am happy with my goal, but the points aren’t counted.
On the first goal
Yeah, disappointed in the moment. It was a mistake. As a professional player, there are going to be times that you make a mistake and unfortunately that mistake cost a goal. But, I can’t dwell on it. It’s the past. I’m going to have to move on.
On if he was fouled on the first goal he let in
There was some contact, but I mean, the ref didn’t think it was a foul. I think – I’ll just say it was my mistake. I’ll leave it at that.
On giving up another set piece goal
It was very disappointing, and again, something that we want to quickly forget and move on. Hopefully, we can get it right, too.
On if letting in six goals affects his confidence
Yes. There’s no way we are happy with giving up this many goals. I just think we are going through a phase. We just have to hang tight, stick together and ride out the slump.
On fixing things
If I really sit down, I can’t pin point one thing. I just think that some bounces are not going our way. Sometimes when we get our block to the ball, sometimes it’s blocking and going in. I just think it’s one of the things where you don’t want to sit down and start to think too much about it because as I said before, it’s just something we need to stick together as a team and it will pass.
On bailing out Andre
Yeah, he’s a key paddle. He plays a really big role. Usually, I mean, you want to protect your keeper. You don’t want him to do too much work because that means the defenders aren’t doing well. But I think as a unit, the back four and the whole team, we tried to defend and to do it right. I think we have fought well so far, but sometimes it happens and things don’t go your way. But, he’s a big part of us. As a unit, as 11 guys on the field, the 18 and everyone on this team – we’ve had to stick in to keep it zero. Sometimes things don’t work out.
On Manneh’s goal
I don’t think it was a matter of speed for me, just a matter of judgment. I misjudged and tried to play the first time and it didn’t work. And at that point, you don’t really know what the striker is thinking and there’s a lot of ways he could go. I was actually just hoping he would knock it down the line and try to run because I would have had time to catch up, but clever play. He did well on his part. It was just a mistake and I’ll have to learn from it and hopefully it doesn’t repeat itself again.
On if he feels shoulder discomfort
Not really. I’ve played with it – this is my second game coming back. I haven’t had any issues with it yet. It doesn’t affect the way I play. I have a brace on. It has no effect on how I play.