There’s no place like home, and after four games away from Thunderbird Stadium, which saw WFC2 garner four points from a possible 12, the ‘Caps made the most of their return to Vancouver with a hard fought 2-1 victory over Sacramento Republic.
The Whitecaps had to come from behind to do it, after Cameron Iwasa was sprung clear and fired past Spencer Richey to give Sacramento a 14th minute 1-0 lead. Marco Bustos got Vancouver level with a penalty eight minutes later, after Kyle Greig was flattened in the box, and that looked to be how it was going to end, before Whitecaps substitute Thomas Sanner headed home the winner, and his first professional goal, a minute into stoppage time.
“We’re ecstatic,” Koch told reporters after the win. “You could see the emotion from the guys. It’s been a tough few weeks to be honest, being on the road as much as we have been. To come home, and it was a 50-50 game. We created a couple of chances, they created a couple of chances.
“The game started to fade away a little bit in the second half. A little bit of a lack of energy potentially from both groups and obviously it was bloody hot out there. But it was fantastic to see Thomas Sanner score his first professional goal and to get the three points.”
Kyle Greig and Daniel Haber struck up an excellent partnership earlier in the season, and have 15 goals and four assists between them through 19 matches. Both have been quieter of late, with goals coming from elsewhere on the pitch. With Sanner getting off the mark, the ‘Caps will be hoping they now have another string to their goalscoring bow.
“I think it’s nice to have a balanced attack,” Koch said. “You don’t want to rely on just one person. Kyle was obviously scoring a lot of goals through the first ten odd games, but he’s been working just as hard the last few games as he was in the first ten games, but he just hasn’t had the success.
“As a group, we don’t really care, to be honest, who scores. It takes pressure off players if other guys can step up to the plate. Fantastic cross from Daniel Haber today, that’s as good as a goal, and then Thomas came in and scored. We notice the hard work that Kyle put in together today and it’s a group. We went out and played together and got the three points.”
Sacramento’s success these past couple of seasons has been built upon a strong defence, but it’s one that has been wavering of late, with seven goals given up in their last three matches. It was clear they were looking to get some of that defensive strength back in Vancouver, and it look to have paid off in part before Sanner’s late winner.
“They started three centre backs,” Koch noted. “They obviously changed things up a bit and played a 3-5-2 or 5-3-2, whatever you want to call how players move when they’re on the pitch. It shows that they’re wanting to shore things up a little bit by having those three centre halves play. For the most part, it actually worked quite well for them. Thankfully in the end we managed to put one in and we go ahead quite happy today.”
WFC2’s last two wins have now come from stoppage time winners. After giving up a number of late goals in the early part of the season, and putting in some lacklustre second half performances in general, the ‘Caps have been working hard to turn that around, but there’s more to it than just that according to Koch.
“This year we have depth,” Koch said. “We can make substitutions and put a player like Thomas Sanner on and make a difference. In USL, where you have five subs, it’s great for us a group that’s trying to develop players, we get more opportunities to get the guys into the game and they get to play. But we can also put players on that will make a difference and Thomas did that today.”
Being back at Thunderbird was a brief respite for the ‘Caps, as they now head back out on the road for their next two matches. But they made the most of the home field advantage to stay in pole position at the top of the Western Conference, tied on points with LA Galaxy II, and with a four point cushion to third place.
With seven of their final 11 matches now at home, the ‘Caps need to keep their good home record going. If they can, then they should find themselves in a strong playoff position come the end of September.
“I think it’ll have a huge impact on how the end of the season pans out for us,” Koch admitted. “But having said that, we know we need to go away first before we even worry about that. We’ll enjoy this tonight. To score right at the end, and get the three points, is great.
“We’re ecstatic for the guys, and then we’ll regroup and get ourselves ready to go to Colorado Springs and then go to Arizona, and then yes, we will be very, very happy to come home for the last few games.”