Whitecaps strikers strike San JoseAugust 11, 2013 at 10:50 pm | Posted in Whitecaps Season 2013 | 1 Comment
The entire Vancouver Whitecaps team did its job against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday. Defenders defended, midfielders passed the ball for goals and strikers struck. It was a remarkable team effort from front to back. The team effort was made all the more important by the fact that the Earthquakes have been recovering from a poor start to the season to be directly competing with the Whitecaps for a playoff spot in the hyper-competitive Western Conference of Major League Soccer. The Whitecaps had only a slender three point lead over the Earthquakes going into the match. Now the gap is a more comfortable six points.
With Andy O’Brien professing his fitness to play I fully expected him to be on the pitch come kickoff time, but perhaps it was a ruse, because Carlyle Mitchell started instead. Mitchell has been a bit of a weak link recently but against San Jose he played his best match yet. He displayed a new coolness and composure on the ball and made no mistakes as he helped the team record a clean sheet for keeper David Ousted.
San Jose are a team that looks frightening. The Earthquakes have preferred to have large men in their squad such as centre back Bernardez and midfielder Lenhart, to name just two. In the first half San Jose used these big men to clog up their own end while striker Chris Wondolowski lurked in the Whitecaps half waiting for an opportunity to steal one. The Whitecaps had a terrible time trying to penetrate the formidable wall San Jose had set up.
San Jose had the best chance of the first half with a volley fired through traffic towards the Whitecaps goal from just inside the 18 yard box by San Jose’s Cato. David Ousted made his first big save at BC Place by knocking a wickedly dipping shot away with his arm. Throughout this match Ousted showed his technical depth as a goalkeeper, catching crosses, making a couple of key saves and generally radiating confidence throughout the team. I feel a bit sorry for Brad Knighton, who has played very well and made no major errors before losing his spot, but the fact is that Ousted has demonstrated in the last two matches he is technically head and shoulders above Knighton (and, for that matter, Joe Cannon).
At the half it looked like the match would be either a 0-0 draw or a 1-0 win for one of the two teams. Ousted made another key save ten minutes into the second half as a deep free kick was knocked across the goal for a waiting Wondolowski. Ousted managed to get the slightest of touches on the ball which took it out of the path of Wondolowski, who would have scored easily but for Ousted’s intervention. Wondolowski did not get a clean touch and Nigel Reo-Coker knocked the ball out of danger from just in front of our goal.
The difference in the match was Reo-Coker (again), who did everything in this match, from desperate defensive clearances to creating the winning goal for Camilo in the 60th minute with a surging run past San Jose’s defenders. YP Lee had fed him the ball after winning it at the top of our 18 yard line. Reo-Coker’s speed, stamina and balance were remarkable, as was his perfect cross into the path of the charging Camilo just in front of goal. Camilo beat the last defender to the ball and used his left foot to drag the ball past Jon Busch just inside the far post. It was a beautiful goal to watch, and after so much frustration trying to get through a packed defence, the Whitecaps managed to score on the first shot on San Jose’s goal in the match.
The Earthquakes began to come out of their shell in an effort to save the match, putting sustained pressure on the Whitecaps, who held firm. The match was put beyond doubt when Camilo’s magnificent cross field pass found Teibert, who took a touch to bring the ball down and then put it in front of Reo-Coker who wound up to shoot; he missed the ball almost completely, but the slight touch he did make put the ball directly in front of Kenny Miller, who used his striker’s predatory instinct to slam the ball low to Busch’s right. It was 2-0.
Ousted had to make one more save from ex-Whitecap Shea Salinas, but San Jose never looked like seriously penetrating a well organized defence marshalled by a bellowing Ousted. Tommy “the Wolfman” Heinemann came on for the last eight minutes or so, but had little time to make an impression. Perhaps he deserves a bit more time given that he tears it up in the reserves matches.
It was a key win in the crowded Western Conference playoff contest. After the brief hiccoughs against LA and Philadelphia, the Whitecaps are back to winning ways. It will be interesting to see if Rennie prefers Jun Marques Davidson to Kobayashi next match as Kobayashi still looks uncomfortable in his skin out there on the MLS pitch. His technical skills on the ball are good, but he is slow and does not like the physical side of the game. To me he looked like the only passenger in the Whitecaps team. With only one goal and one assist to his name after plenty of playing time, perhaps the team needs to offload this fellow for someone who will contribute more.