Whitecaps slump to defeat in LA

July 21, 2013 at 10:59 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps Season 2013 | Leave a comment

I suppose the streak could not last forever. After six games without a defeat the Vancouver Whitecaps had an off night in front of a small crowd in LA which included spectators David Beckham and Steve Nash. The Whitecaps’ recent record is still excellent, with only two loses in the last eleven matches. Unfortunately on this night the Whitecaps machine, which has run so superbly for the last two months, went back to the mediocre setting.

Midfielders Gershon Koffie and Nigel Reo -Coker both played anonymous games. Koffie in particular played an awful game, giving the ball away far too much, handing the Galaxy the ball on a silver platter for close chances several times. Poor play in the centre of midfield meant the magic trio of Teibert, Camilo and Miller rarely saw the ball.

The Whitecaps dodged a bullet early when Brad Rusin swept a ball off of the goal line when lanky LA striker Zardes beat Jordan Harvey in the air after 5 minutes. Harvey again looked like a liability in this match. Forwards are exploiting his seeming inability to defend against high crosses.

It was a one sided match the whole game, but an early cross-field ball from YP Lee looked like being intercepted when Russell Teibert intervened to put a deft deflection on the ball with his magic left foot. The ball fell in front of an unmarked Camilo, who was Lee’s target in the first place. The wee Brazilian, who kept his level of play high in this match where others didn’t, easily had the time to beat the Galaxy’s Carlo Cudicini. Against the flow of play, it was 0-1 Whitecaps after 18 minutes. Credit has to be given to Reo-Coker, who expertly started the whole counter attack that led to the goal.

The inevitable occurred in the 27th minute when the giant centre back Omar Gonzales nodded a ball played in off of a free kick for Villareal to tap in from close range for the Galaxy. The entire play was onside, but, astonishingly, the linesman flagged for offside, and then changed his mind. While calling offside can be a complicated business for linesmen, their task is simple: if the play is onside, keep your flag down, when it is offside, raise your flag. The linesman somehow got this rather simple formula the wrong way around and raised his flag for offside. After the linesman expressed a brief mea culpa to the referee, a goal was called. Understandably, the Whitecaps went completely mental, including Coach Martin Rennie. This was not the first time the Whitecaps have been burned by match officials. These incidents go back as far as the NASL days, and match officials all too easily change their mind against the Whitecaps in favour of more glamorous teams.

The vast majority of the Whitecaps came out flat on this night, but the magic especially died for Brad Knighton, who looked remarkably ordinary on the Galaxy’s second goal in the 56th minute. He failed to leave his line to collect a long ball into the penalty area, then let a low shot go through his legs as he flopped to the ground awkwardly. It was a sad goal when you consider the remarkable saves he has been making lately. It remains to be seen if Coach Rennie thinks Knighton’s bubble has burst. After that display David Ousted may get the nod for the next match, though that would be rather harsh on Knighton, given his recent play has been excellent. Consistent high performance must be the goal of a professional footballer, however, and Knighton was mediocre on this night.

Knighton: to be ousted by Ousted?

Knighton: to be ousted by Ousted?

It has to be said that Brad Rusin was very easily dispatched by a quick flick of Zardes’ boot, flopping to the ground as inertly as Knighton did. We really do miss the leadership and experience of Jay DeMerit and Andy O’Brien in the centre of our defence.

The Whitecaps threw caution to the wind and brought Kekuta Mennah on for Jun Marques Davidson in the 62nd minute in a bid to get an equalizer. It nearly worked ten minutes later as Mennah won the ball deep in LA’s end and then fed a beautiful ball to Miller, who timed a run across the Galaxy’s defence to get a clear shot on the Galaxy’s goal. Miller had more time than he knew and snatched at the shot in a hurry, which Cudicini comfortably saved with his foot. Had Miller taken all the time he had, it was 2-2.

Miller’s chance was one of only 2 shots on goal on the night, which was rather sad when you consider LA was well below full strength, missing four starters.

The Whitecaps midfield play was so poor the Whitecaps resorted to giving Johnny Leveron the ball at the back so that he could launch long balls up front, time and time again. Though Leveron does have a lovely left foot, this was hardly a formula for success, and ultimately the Whitecap’s strategy to score was to hope for a lucky bounce off of a high ball.

It was disappointing to see the Whitecaps come out so flat after a long run of getting things right. In the hyper-competitive Western Conference, off nights are something the Whitecaps can ill afford. In spite of what has been a spectacular run, we only sit in fourth spot in our home conference. The Whitecaps’ playoff hopes still hang in the balance, with two teams lurking behind us very closely indeed: Dallas is behind only on goal difference, and Colorado is only one point behind.

Thank heaven we are back at BC Place next Saturday.

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