That sinking feeling: the Whitecaps lose to the LA GalaxyAugust 25, 2013 at 5:31 pm | Posted in Whitecaps Season 2013 | 8 Comments
We knew this match against the Los Angeles Galaxy was going to be a big match. Going into the final third of the season, the Western Conference of Major League Soccer is intensely competitive and close, with only Chivas USA out of the running for a playoff spot. A few weeks ago the Vancouver Whitecaps were flying high in second place, but two straight defeats has taken the team to sixth place and out of the playoff spots.
In Saturday’s match Coach Martin Rennie had to reckon with one of the most technically gifted teams in MLS. With Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane looking to score up front and the very talented (and huge) Omar Gonzalez at the back, the Galaxy are one of the top three teams in MLS.
The match was very close, and at the end one of the teams suffered the breakdown which would be the difference in the match. Unfortunately it was the Whitecaps who conceded early.
There was plenty of blame to go around when the Whitecaps let Landon Donovan score two minutes into the match. Matt Watson gave up the ball in midfield to the Galaxy’s DeLaGarza and then let him dribble around him like he was a practice pylon. Andy O’Brien left his position in the middle of the field to mark Robbie Keane when Leveron was already there, and when the ball bounced to Donovan he found himself all alone with the ball with a gaping hole in the Whitecaps defence front of him. Donovan showed his cool and his class when he smashed a left footed rocket past a strangely out of position David Ousted, who seemed to have forgotten where his goal posts were. The sad fact is that no less than three Whitecaps players were asleep at the wheel at the beginning of this match.
The Whitecaps responded well and put the Galaxy under heavy pressure for the next twenty minutes or so. Sadly, no goals came and the Galaxy soon learned how to defend in such a manner as to frustrate the Whitecaps.
With Camilo suffering from a groin strain, Darren Mattocks got his chance to start. He responded by playing his worst game for the Whitecaps since his debut against Seattle last year. Mattocks performance was unforgivably bad. His lack of soccer smarts and basic technique were very poor, and there was no sign of the magic he conjured up last year. Perhaps he is still recovering from his operation, because his timing and running off the ball were atrocious. At least ten times he zigged when he should have zagged, leaving frustrated teammates (and us fans) wondering what the hell the striker was thinking. Mattocks found his way into the MLS because of one thing: speed. He had better find other footballing dimensions to his game or his time here in Vancouver will be short.
The Galaxy fielded a team of 10 technically solid footballers and a rather shaky goalkeeper who, late in the match, made what will surely be the save of the season. The Whitecaps fielded a team of 8 technically solid players and Matt Watson and Darren Mattocks. Neither Mattocks nor Watson looked as though they belonged in this league. Watson was too slow and had no vision in his passing; as someone near me said, Watson’s play made us long for Jun Marques Davidson, who sat on the bench for this one. Mattocks showed virtually no soccer brain at all.
The Whitecaps came close a couple of times in the first half with ambitious volleys from Koffie and Leveron, but both missed the target.
Watson gave way to Kekuta Mennah at half time, and the young Gambian made an immediate impact. He was dangerous from the moment he came on with his speed and dribbling skills. It made me wonder what he could have done had he been preferred to Mattocks from the start. It was sad that he only to to play for one half of this game.
Some nice work from Russell Teibert on the right flank led to a nice low pass across the penalty area early in the second half which Mattocks completely missed and Kenny Miller then mis hit with the Galaxy’s goal at his mercy. The scoring touch just refused to visit the Whitecaps on this night.This would become abundantly clear when Kekuta Manneh’s superb half-volley from thirty yards bounced off of the post straight to Jordan Harvey, who found himself alone in front of goal with galaxy keeper Pinedo well out of position and the goal completely open. Harvey took an awkward first touch to bring the ball down then scrambled to take a shot under pressure. The ball was going straight down the middle into the net when Penedo shocked us all and dived to palm the ball wide. It was an astonishing save and BC Place was filled with twenty-thousand plus heads shaking in disbelief.
Could Harvey have done better? He seemed to hit the ball in the one spot in the goal where keeper Penedo could save it. Frankly, it was harder to miss than to score and again, as happened a good number of times in this match for the Whitecaps, the goal scoring touch just seemed to abandon Harvey at the critical moment. When that one failed to go in it just confirmed it was going to be one of those games.
The ball hit Juninho’s hand in injury time when one of the Galaxy’s defenders attempted to clear the ball but the referee waved off any shout for a penalty kick. It was one of four hand balls by LA players the referee ignored in this match. It has to be said Juninho’s hand ball was completely unintentional and did not prevent a scoring opportunity, but it made us all madder than hell in any event. The frustration just piled on higher and higher as LA took away a narrow (and lucky) victory.
It was hard to draw any definite conclusions from this match, which really should have been a draw when Harvey’s incredible miss was factored in. The Whitecaps luck simply ran out in this game. The margin between victory and defeat was very slim, and it all came down to mistakes the Whitecaps made two minutes into the game.
Even if the Whitecaps deserved a better result, there was no mistaking which team had the better overall football technique and sophistication: the LA Galaxy. If the Whitecaps want to win this league they will have to make some changes to player personnel to improve our squad.