Whitecaps substitutes reel in FC DallasApril 28, 2013 at 9:39 pm | Posted in Whitecaps Season 2013 | Leave a comment
I knew it was going to be a tough match. For one thing, were facing Dallas, the top team in Major League Soccer. It had also been announced we were going to wear those horrible brown uniforms which I despise with a passion. My favourite Vancouver Whitecaps player, Eric Hassli, was going to play for the other team. All in all it was not looking good.
I brightened up a bit when I found out Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie was actually going to start the game with our strongest line-up available, something he has failed to do for what seems like ages. His poor team selection has resulted in an unsettled team and five games without a win.
It has been so long since our best eleven played together that they seemed like strangers to one another in the first half. After some less than fancy footwork by Joe Cannon, the Whitecaps conceded a pair of corners early, the second of which resulted in a goal. Cannon was blocked by the huge Dallas striker Kenny Cooper, and Andy O’Brien struggled to get to a vicious in-swinging cross. A pinball goal somehow resulted, making its way into the Whitecaps goal via the back of O’Brien’s head.
The Whitecaps had a number of good chances, most of which fell to Darren Mattocks, who worked like a dog but just could not score on the night. He had at least three golden chances but just could not bury the ball. He deserved better but it was not to be.
The Whitecaps played terribly during the first half. The players played poorly and looked like they lacked confidence. The consensus in the seats around me was that it was time to fire Martin Rennie. We all waxed eloquent about how we missed Teitur Thordarson, who at least had some notion of football strategy. Rennie would eventually prove us wrong on this day.
Things went from bad to worse, however, as the Whitecaps conceded yet another comical goal early in the second half. Rusin played a perfect flick-on header off of a Dallas free kick for Hedges to finish past a floundering Joe Cannon, who challenged the shot like a limp piece of lettuce. The Whitecaps had hit their lowest point of the season. It was beginning to look like an embarrassing loss to a Western Conference rival was inevitable. The Whitecaps could have given up at this point, but veterans Nigel Reo-Coker and YP Lee showed some fantastic leadership and kept on driving the team forward.
Martin Rennie made his best tactical move of the season by taking off defensive midfielder Jun Marques Davidson in the 54th minute and throwing in the speedy Kekuta Manneh. By this time Dallas seemed content to defend deeply and hit on the counter attack; a gamble was needed to save the game. At first Manneh struggled, but then found his form and gave Dallas a real problem to worry about. We all snickered and shook our heads as Rennie took off Daigo Kobayashi and brought in Tom Heinemann in the 70th minute. We weren’t snickering for long. Within five minutes the Whitecaps were level.
Heinemann took his chance firmly with both hands and made an immediate and positive impact on the game. He was quick, he held the ball well up front and created the first goal by putting Dallas under intense pressure with his play on the right side of goal. He drove in a useful cross which Camilo struck at goal; Dallas keeper Fernandez made a stunning reflex save to his left. The ball then fell to Heinemann, who poked it to Manneh who stood unmarked on the left side of goal. Manneh took one touch and then stroked a half-volley into the net at the near post. The two substitutes had combined brilliantly to bring the Whitecaps back into the game. All credit to Martin Rennie, who finally got the strategy right in this match.
Manneh created the second goal with some stunning wing play. He won the ball from a Dallas player with an extraordinary effort out on the left touchline, jinxed past a few defenders and crossed a perfect ball for Camilo to redirect towards goal. It looked like Camilo had miss-hit the ball, but a lucky bounce off of a Dallas defender saw the ball past Fernandez into the Dallas goal. It was proof that Manneh has the ability to put intense pressure on opposition defences at the MLS level. One goal and one assist in the match; not bad for an 18 year old rookie. If he keeps playing this way many goals will come from the wee man in future.
The rest of the game provided many chills and spills (especially spills from Dallas keeper Fernandez, who seems unable or unwilling to catch the ball). Dallas played with 10 men after Jackson and Rochat tussled a bit going after the ball. Jackson hit Rochat in the face with his arm and was sent off. Mattocks had a golden chance to win the game late, but, incredibly, put the ball wide from close range.
Joe Cannon redeemed himself for his earlier shaky play by saving the Whitecaps in injury time yet again after Perez managed to get himself free at the top of the box with the Whitecaps defense looking ragged and tired.
What a shame that Dallas FC cheated so much during this game. A team which has so many skillful players went down faking injuries time after time after time. Coach Schellas Hyndman had clearly instructed his players to lie down on the pitch and fake injury as much as possible. It made a mockery of the game of football; not what you would expect from what is the best team in the MLS on points. Hyndman and Dallas FC should be ashamed of themselves; they should have more pride than that.