Whitecaps grab gutsy draw in Portland

August 6, 2013 at 8:58 am | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps Season 2013 | 2 Comments

The 1-1 draw in Portland last Saturday night was a fantastic effort by the Whitecaps squad.  The Whitecaps went into the cauldron of Portland with a team which looked like it was held together with chicken wire.  Starters Davidson, Koffie, Miller, DeMerit, O’Brien, were unavailable due to injury or suspension.   Bench sitters and substitutes took over for them: Daigo Kobayashi, Carlyle Mitchell, Kekuta Manneh, and Matt Watson came in their place and did a great job for the Vancouver Whitecaps. The match saw the first start for David Ousted as well. His selection was a calculated gamble from Martin Rennie.

No more time in the autograph booth for this guy...

No more time in the autograph booth for this guy…

The banged up Brad Rusin took over for Jun Marques Davidson as holding midfielder, leaving his centre back position for Carlyle Mitchell. Rusin bashed and banged his way through the beginning of the match until he hurt himself trying to murder the Timber’s midfielder Diego Valeri with a bone-crunching tackle. The two ended up as a heap of body parts on the pitch, but Rusin’s foot twisted under the weight of Valeri’s body, and our man was off on a stretcher. The smaller Matt Watson came on to replace the giant. At this point it all looked like a comedy with our third choice at holding midfielder coming in off of the bench. How much worse could it get? How would the Whitecaps survive the match with this team?

The Whitecaps held tight for the first half, conceding most of the possession, but still looking dangerous on the counter attack. This was largely because of the superb play and leadership of Nigel Reo-Coker, whose eagerness to get the ball, keep possession and feed the men up front was the difference for the Whitecaps. His ability to hold the ball for our team is what is making us competitive this year. I must say I loved the physical play of the Whitecaps; they hit Portland hard with tackle after tackle, frustrating the Timbers and choking their game.

The Whitecaps were punished early in the second half for losing their shape and ball watching. Centre-back Leveron ended up out of position playing wide on the left, and allowed Valeri too much time and space to drift in to the middle of the park to put in a perfect cross. Mitchell was completely at sea, and YP Lee ended up trying to cover Mitchell’s man Johnson in the middle of the pitch. Lee got to him too late and Johnson had a free header with all of the time in the world to direct the ball unopposed past a helpless Ousted in goal. It was the first defensive error of the night in what had been a tremendously disciplined performance up to that point by the Whitecaps.

It looked like that was it, but the Whitecaps continued undaunted, showing occasional bursts of energy and offence through Camilo up front. In the 68th minute the ‘Caps earned a corner. Camilo placed a beautiful dipping corner kick at Portland’s near post where a charging Harvey met it with a bizarre backwards deflected header that beat Portland keeper Ricketts into the top of Portland’s net. It was a very odd goal indeed because Harvey had twisted his body completely backwards, and allowed the ball to deflect off of the back of his head. It was something out of Cirque de Soleil, a contortionist’s masterpiece. Had he hit the ball with his forehead it would have been wide of goal. Whatever one may think of Harvey’s defensive abilities, his scoring ability cannot be questioned. It was yet another fantastic goal from our left full-back, who now has 4 goals to his name this season. Viva Jordan Harvey!

The game ended in a draw, which was testament to the fantastic effort the Whitecaps squad put into this match. At the end of the match the Timbers and their fans were spitting toads, because they fully expected to win this match, given our injuries and suspensions. It was particularly satisfying to see the Timbers captain Will Johnson looking so angry after the final whistle blew!

The fact we got a result at all proves that the Whitecaps are developing depth, experience, and quality on the bench. This is essential to any football team’s success. Credit to Martin Rennie must also be given for motivating his team under difficult circumstances.

The revelation of the night was the solid play of Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted. He looked sharp back there, playing a solid unspectacular game, which is what you want from your keeper. His distribution was superb, his handling of the ball is solid, and his positional play was all technically perfect. He is a bit more conservative about coming out for crosses than Brad Knighton, but when he did come out he caught the ball with no problem. Ousted’s play spread confidence through the team and I would have to say he has earned another start next Saturday. He looks like the real thing to me.

I had feared going into this match that this would be the third loss on the trot. The point the Whitecaps earned kept them in fifth place in the hyper-competitive Western Conference, one point ahead of Dallas. It really is going to be an absolute dogfight for a playoff spot this year, but if the Whitecaps can survive games like this last one in Portland, I think they have the character to fight their way into the playoffs.

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  1. I think your view of Nigel Reo Coker needs some objectivity…the Portland game was perhaps his worst as a whitecap. Yes he chased balls down but mainly after he gave them away on a terrible pass. In fact the general consensus is he must be sick or hurt.

    • I give him credit for captaining the team to an improbable draw. It is true that he gives the occasional stray pass, but that will happen to a guy who has so much of the ball.


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