Vancouver Whitecaps ended the first month of the new season with back to back wins, claiming their first home win and clean sheet of the year with a 1-0 victory over a Houston Dynamo side that showed glimpses of some of the exciting attacking play they’ve produced so far this season but couldn’t find a way through a makeshift ‘Caps defence.
A first half Pedro Morales penalty was all that separated the teams, well perhaps that and the Whitecaps woodwork, and Vancouver have now gone their first four games without a goal from open play. Concerning, but if they can get the points without them, Carl Robinson will take that every game, although it might see him and everyone else go a bit greyer in the hair department as a result.
Houston were left seething after the game, both at the penalty award and their inability to take anything from another game on the road.
Here’s our match report and full postgame reaction from both locker rooms.
It won’t be Vancouver’s prettiest, or most comprehensive win of the season, but when everything comes to pass down the line, it may be viewed as one of their most important.
An understrength Whitecaps side came out of the traps fast, eventually taking the lead through a 23rd minute Pedro Morales penalty after failing to convert a multitude of other chances. The goal finally kicked the Dynamo into action and despite hitting the bar and the post, the league’s leading attack could find a way through and went down to the 1-0 loss.
Missing four starters from last week’s win over Seattle, this was a match to give Vancouver’s fringe players a chance to show Carl Robinson what they could do. It also gave Robbo something of a selection headache, especially in the centre of defence, which saw Pa-Modou Kah return from injury to partner makeshift centreback Andrew Jacobson. Definitely a backline to be tested.
Japanese striker, Masato Kudo, came in for his first start with his new team, playing a free moving role in behind Octavio Rivero, as Vancouver went back to their trusty 4-2-3-1 formation.
With two fast paced teams with speedy wingers, the game had all the makings of an open, end-to-end affair and it only took three minutes for the Whitecaps to get their first chance, Cristian Techera running on to a long through ball and lobbing the advancing Joe Willis, with a shot that went wide left.
Octavio Rivero tried to flick on a Techera cutback in the 11th minute, but couldn’t get a good connection, before Rivero flicked on a whipped in Techera free kick minute later, as the home side pushed for the breakthrough.
A quick Kekuta Manneh break caught Houston’s defence cold moments later and he delightfully cut the ball back to Fraser Aird for the Canadian to play in Kudo, but Willis stood tall to deny the striker. The rebound came to Rivero whose shot was deflected over for a corner.
The ‘Caps kept the pressure on from the resultant corner, which fell to Jacobson at the back of the box. The MLS veteran unleashed a fierce strike which Willis did well to parry and the danger was cleared.
It was a breathtaking start from Vancouver, but as has been seen on so many occasions before, there was no end result to show for it.
But it did finally come in the 23rd minute, and as with the ‘Caps previous five goals this season, it didn’t come from open play.
And as with the others, Mr Clutch himself, Pedro Morales, dispatched it with aplomb.
The big question now is: Can Morales win the MLS Golden Boot on just penalties?!
Houston started to come into the game after falling behind and the “Human Highlighter” stood tall to keep out the Dynamo soon after, before Leonel Miranda crashed a 31st minute scissor kick off the ‘Caps bar.
The visitors were having the better chances now and Ousted was again called into action to deny Andrew Wenger, after some nice footwork in the box to set up his chance.
The action dried up and Vancouver headed in at the half delighted with their one goal advantage but they will have been ruing that it wasn’t a much larger lead for them to protect in the second half.
It was a very uneventful start to the second period, with Vancouver shutting up shop and Houston’s impotent attack struggling to get anything going. The Dynamo took off dangermen Wenger (who was feeling ill) and Maidana (who wasn’t ready to go for much more than an hour) to try and kickstart something, but the ‘Caps makeshift defence was looking solid.
Vancouver were looking comfortable, but they nearly gave up the lead in the 72nd minute when Ricardo Clark crashed a low drive off Ousted’s left post.
As the subs kept coming, neither team looked like adding to the tally. Ousted had an easy save to make low from an Alex shot, but that was about it.
Houston pushed hard in the closing minutes, forcing some free kicks and corners but the Whitecaps defence held firm for a big win.
Vancouver now finish the month 2 and 2, which after their early struggles is pretty damn good for a team still very much finding its feet. Big test coming up next Saturday as the moneybags of LA come to town, but back at full strength, and with two wins under their belt, they’ll be heading in to it in with a lot more confidence than at first feared.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 1 – 0 Houston Dynamo
ATT: 22,120 (sell-out)
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Fraser Aird, Andrew Jacobson, Pa-Modou Kah, Jordan Harvey; Matias Laba, Pedro Morales, Cristian Techera (Sam Adekugbe 69), Masato Kudo (Jordan Smith 78), Kekuta Manneh (Nicolas Mezquida 86); Octavio Rivero [Subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Cole Seiler, Deybi Flores, Erik Hurtado]
HOUSTON: Joe Willis; Jalil Anibaba, David Horst, Raul Rodriguez, DaMarcus Beasley; Alex, Ricardo Clark, Andrew Wenger (Abdoulle Mansally 58), Cristian Maidana, Leonel Miranda (Mauro Manotas 64); Will Bruin (Rob Lovejoy 81) [Subs Not Used: Calle Brown, David Rocha, Sheanon Williams, Agus]
Thoughts on the match:
“Very pleased with them today, obviously. We knew it was going to be a tough game. We knew that they would come and play us out… We’ll give players opportunities to play. I think these guys stepped in and did themselves a lot of good.”
Thoughts on strategy:
“Just to try and get the first goal. I think the first goals in most games are very important. I think the first 30 minutes of the play was probably as good as we’ve played this season. I was disappointed we only had one goal to show for it. We missed some very, very good chances. When you only score one goal, when you create three, four, five good chances, then you leave yourself a little vulnerable. And that’s what happened.”
Thoughts on Kudo:
“I thought his movement was very strong. We know that’s what he’s good at. He’ll be disappointed he didn’t score the goal. It was a great link of play. We usually set him up in training. We’re creating chances, which is good. I know people say we haven’t scored a goal from open play. It wasn’t about that today. It was about trying to get three points on the board.”
Thoughts on comparison to last week:
“Last week was a little bit about trying to get a performance. We wanted to, you know, go to Seattle, which is a tough place to play and try and put on a good show. Change the formation a little bit and I thought they played very well. Got the result, which is good. I think we played very well against Montreal in the first game of the season, but we had some average defending, which cost us. They didn’t rip us open, behind the first goal from Piatti. We all wanted the guys to go out and express themselves and they did that in the first half hour, which I think is as good as we’ve played. You know, you’re not going to have, probably, too many games this season where you play 90 minutes of pure football. We played 30 minutes of pure football, got the goal, and managed to show a lot of character, great determination and kept a clean sheet, which was important as well.”
On two wins in first four games:
“Satisfied with the last two weeks, obviously. The league is what it is. You try and predict things and you try and read things. It’s a coupon buster, unfortunately. So, you just get on with each game at a time and you don’t get too beat up when you lose a game, and you don’t get too high when you win a game. You just quietly go back to business. The guys should be proud in there today because it wasn’t an easy game for us. They’re a good team, they’ve scored for fun in the first three games, we knew that, and playing with a lot of confidence… We knew it was going to be a difficult game, but fair play to the guys.”
On whether Pedro Morales could win Golden Boot based on his penalties:
“I don’t know, do you? Yeah, I don’t know, does he have four goals now? I thought he was very, very strong in his performance today. There was a number of players who performed very, very high. Pedro was one. Nice for him to get a goal; he’s very calm from twelve yards, isn’t he?”
On Canada playing yesterday and the Whitecaps playing today:
“I watched the game yesterday, obviously Canada/Mexico in front of 54,000. Unbelievable support in this stadium and a very good game of football. Disappointed for Canada, obviously. They had their chances to go ahead before the game, but it’s one of them things that we are in a league where sometimes games are, you know you miss certain players when they play for internationals. I’ve said all along, I want my players to play for their international team because it’s a pride thing. If you’re called up for your country, it means a lot. When you’re a professional footballer, it’s the first thing you want to grow up to be when you’re a small boy or a girl. And the second is to play for your country. I’ll never take that away from them. It worked out tonight, obviously we were missing a couple of guys. I spoke to a couple of guys who played in the games yesterday and hopefully after Tuesday we can get them back.”
Thoughts on Matias Laba:
“Yeah, he was good, very good. The first game, or two, it took [Laba] to get up to speed, but he was Matias Laba. You know he’s one of the best players in that position in the league. He won every ball, he covered a lot of ground, he’s a rock on the field.”
On Fraser Aird’s performance tonight:
“He had a strong performance today in a makeshift back line for us. He was good going forward, he showed us that. He’s an outlet for us. There was twice where he missed the ball in the light, or the sun, he would probably say to me, even though there was no sun. But, there’s always room for improvement. So, Fraser should be proud as well.”
Thoughts on the makeshift backline with Waston/Parker on International Duty:
“Kah and AJ come in and it’s not easy sometimes to come in and replace, obviously, Kendall and Tim, who have been great for us in the first couple of games even though we haven’t got the result. When you play your first game there’s always a little more pressure on you, but they defended very well. They covered each other very well. You know, we got a clean sheet, so say what you want about whether there were mistakes or not. We got a clean sheet and that’s important today.”
Thoughts on the defending:
“Pure result, I think we kept a clean sheet and won one- nil, so looking at it that way we did tremendously well. Is there things we can clean up, probably, we need to be better on a lot of points but today we got a clean sheet. Three points is the most important thing.”
Thoughts on Owen Coyle comments on Houston controlling the match:
“I think the first 25 minutes we were playing the way we wanted to play at home, playing good soccer and creating a lot of the opportunities. But after the goal, we kind of dropped off, we don’t get a hold of the ball as much as we should. If they dominated or not, if he wants to say that, that’s fine. But I look at the result, we got a one-nil win and that’s all that’s important to me. It’s not always going be pretty but when we win one-nil it’s looking good.”
Thoughts on close finish to the match:
“Obviously we don’t want it to be ever that close. Like I said in the beginning, there’s a lot of things that we can do better and I think with the first 25 minutes the amount of chances we created, we can put this game away. But that said, we showed character today by battling it out, a couple of tough things at the end but that’s going happen. They’re a physical team, they’ll put everything in the box and they’ll fight and scrap for it and we did well today. The back line got in the way of shots, the ball got clearances on it and that’s all you can ask.”
On Adekugbe and Smith subbing on in midfield:
“I think from Carl’s point of view he wanted to maybe get a little bit more of a strong presence in the box with both Sam Adekugbe and Jordan Smith. I think that was the idea of trying to make sure we don’t get over run on the flanks…the guys who came in did well. Again it’s well done with Carl to recognize that, you know about the back line by making sure that the midfielders were guys who knew the decisions that had to be [made] and especially in the box.”
Thoughts on pairing with Kah at centre back:
“I felt comfortable, I thought he’s very vocal, he knows what he wants out of me, so it helped me a lot in situations where he could read the game before it happened and kind of give me some guidance before the play started.”
On containing Will Bruin:
“Yeah, he’s obviously a big part of what they do. You know they’re a bit more direct so you’ve got to win those battles. But, I think we did a good job with all the players, he’s obviously a big part but there’s other players that stepped up as well.”
Thoughts on the match?
“I think Vancouver started the game really well. The first 10 to 15 minutes, the game belonged to them in that spell. From the go, well, from that point in the game we really took charge of the game, controlled the whole game. So, it’s hard to sit here with no points from that game given the performance we put in during the match. On the road, as we know it could be a very cruel game as it happened tonight. The penalty, I’ve managed to score a few goals and I’ve been involved as a player or coach, if you want my opinion. Again, I stress again my opinion, that’s a tough ball and never a penalty in a million years. But, unfortunately for us it is given and he [MF Pedro Morales] is a very, very good player, the lad that dispatched it. That’s three in the last two games he’s had. I won’t get concerned with the one we lost tonight but that’s never a penalty. So, it’s hard to take but we know what we have inside, we can play, created chances, hit the bar, post and give ourselves opportunities. We forced, which I believe a very good Vancouver Whitecaps team, which they are, forced them on the back foot at home. We controlled the game from 20 minutes on. So disappointing to leave with no points but again, I thought there were a lot of aspects I was pleased with the performance. We do have to be honest in our assessment. We have to start the game better than we did. Vancouver, except for that early period, I thought we controlled the game with one or two halve chances, never scored. The sad thing is the goal that won the game for Vancouver Whitecaps, again in my opinion I’m stressing that it should of never been awarded as a penalty.”
On not scoring:
“Well, you watched the game didn’t you? We had opportunities to score on them, again, ourselves it just didn’t turn out as we hoped for or any way you want to write it up. We hit the bar, we hit the post, again, we gave ourselves opportunities. It probably should of resulted in some goals, I accept that, because we had a number of opportunities to get them. I think we showed that we’re very exciting and appealing to the eye. Again, missing [Erick] Torres, Boniek Garcia, Giles Barnes, Tyler Deric and you could tell at the early part of the game. So again, Vancouver had a number of players missing, good players as well. That’s what happens in the international calendar, unfortunately.”
On improving their road form after ten matches on the road without a win:
“It’s two games, last season is finished. You can play with facts, whatever you want. You watched the performance, you’ve seen the performance. If you believe Vancouver deserved three points from that performance, I would suggest that you are slightly biased. I’m always fair on my assessment, I told you, Vancouver had a great start in the first 15 minutes. I thought we were the better side. From the moment the goal was scored, we were far better, no doubt about it. So all we need is a little bit of luck, live Vancouver had tonight, given a penalty. Again, that I don’t think was [a penalty]. Then we would be right there fighting for the three points. What we need to do, to answer your question is to continue to perform like that. Not for 75 minutes but the duration if it’s 95 minutes. If we do that, the showing will be in points after points. We have a good team, a young team that is growing and I think getting better. So there’s a lot to be pleased with moving forward. The disappointment is that we’re sitting here with no points from the game because we deserved to take something from it.”
On the addition of Maidana:
“‘Chaco’ is a wonderful player. We knew that we would struggle to get more than 60 minutes from him. His first involvement was a light session from the concussion he received against FC Dallas. Now we tried to maximize that but he is a great player, great tactician. He created chances as you saw tonight. Again, the young lads came in as well and they have a bright future as well. ‘Chaco’ will hopefully be ready for a full game and play the duration of a whole match.”
On the importance of Leonel Miranda’s play:
“I think he’s a wonderful young player, he’s started the last couple of game. He didn’t start against New England [Revolution] or FC Dallas, because in Giles Barnes I believe we have one of the best attacking players in the league. Giles has been injured since the FC Dallas game. Leo has come in and taken his chances. His showing for such a young talent, an exciting player, I thought he did very well today.”
On subbing off Andrew Wenger:
“Yeah, Andrew was ill. He was off after halftime, he wanted to see how he would hold up in the second period. He knew that he had a bit of sickness and at halftime he tried. He has great spirit, we’ve got a great group, and unfortunately I couldn’t get him on. He was out of the game, really. We wanted to protect the player as we always do. Will worked his socks off, with [Mauro] Manotas going up top he is a wonderful young player. I like Miranda, we have options and we like to use them. That’s what happened tonight.”
On how the defense reacted to Vancouver’s goal:
“There was a huge reaction to go a goal behind. We shouldn’t need to go a goal behind for that reaction. We’ve got to come play against Vancouver, which again is a very good side. We have to be ready for that from the first whistle. You’re right, from that moment on I can’t recall Joe Willis having a save in the game. They had their fair chances but we closed the latch on them. We had chances to get the equalizer or the three points, but we have to take our chances. You’ve got to score your goals.”
On Dynamo’s start to the match:
“Yeah, we came out a little slow, but the guys did a great job weathering that initial storm. We’re playing a great team at home, and they came out and they attacked us. The penalty call, it could go either way, but at the end of the day we can’t put ourselves in a situation like that to give the ref an opportunity to make a call like that, and I think we’ll learn from that. The good thing is that from the penalty kick forward, we were by far the better team in that match and we really took it to them; we just couldn’t get any end product tonight and that’s just the way it is. We did really good for three games scoring goals, but it wasn’t there tonight and hopefully it’s there going forward.”
On tightening defensively after conceding the goal:
“I think we woke up a little bit after the goal. We were a little slow to start, and I think once they got that penalty kick and got that goal against us, I think we woke up after that and the guys, we showed a lot of grit and determination tonight the last 70, 75 minutes. I think that’s a good sign going forward, that even though we were down a goal, that we fought to the very end. Probably, we had a lot of good chances and should have won that game, but it wasn’t there tonight and hopefully it is in the future.”
On getting results that match performance and what it will take:
“Defensively, keeping zeroes is what it’s going to take. From the first whistle, we have to tighten things up in the back and not give up those chances, not put ourselves in bad positions like that and not even give the ref an opportunity like that to make a call. I think if we can do that, if we can clean it up a bit in the back, going forward, I think we’re going to be really tough to beat.”
On reaction after the goal:
“Well, the first 20 minutes were probably the worst, we were struggling the most. After that, we were able to keep the ball, start to create more opportunities and it was a completely different game after that. They started far better than us, pressing more and more chances, and that’s something that we have to keep in mind because it’s something that changed the game. It’s true that we were, for probably 60 minutes, just having opportunities and keeping the ball completely ours; but that goal, that penalty is never a penalty, but if you let them go into the box, if you give them space, you have the situation where you are trying to score. It’s not the same as when you have control of the result and you just have to control the ball and you actually are never losing the game. So it was a tough one. Those first 20 minutes probably killed us.”
On what it will take to get results to match the performance on the field:
“It doesn’t matter if it’s home or it’s away, it’s something that you have to bring every game: it’s 90 minutes of concentration. You cannot have the ball 90 minutes; you cannot have chances to score for 90 minutes; but at least the first minutes. Especially the first – I remember last year, the first and the last minutes were really tough for us for whatever reason. I think it’s something mental that you have to just bring and you have to keep in mind because it’s something that has to be there. There’s nothing that you have to do different. We were, as I said, 70 or 65 minutes in control of the game; we just have to bring that to all of the game. There’s nothing really special or different. It’s so soon to say; I would like to see the game with more time, but I think it’s not anything special, it’s more about a mental thing.”