San Jose Draw not much help for Whitecaps’ playoff push

September 15, 2013 at 10:33 pm | Posted in Whitecaps Season 2013 | Leave a comment

It was the match of the desperate ones; the San Jose Earthquakes and the Vancouver Whitecaps both faced diminishing hopes of securing a playoff spot going into the match. The Whitecaps now still have the advantage of having six games to play whereas San Jose has only five games to play. While the Whitecaps dented the Earthquakes playoff hopes further by holding them to a draw, they did not do their own hopes much good either. The Whitecaps sit five points behind the Portland Timbers, who must be their target to pip for the fifth and final playoff spot.

We know how you feel, Mattocks! (Photo by Monique L.)

We know how you feel, Mattocks! (Photo by Monique L.)

The Whitecaps tied 0-0 and provided some remote hope the team might be starting a late season tear like their mid season one. Perhaps the best bit of news is that Jay DeMerit, who has been injured since the first game of the season, appears to have completely recovered from his Achilles tear.

The Whitecaps got lucky after 18 minutes in the first half when Ousted parried an Alan Gordon header off of a corner kick right to San Jose defender Goodson, who did the nearly impossible by shanking the ball over the Whitecaps open goal with a volley from four yards out. It was a lucky reprieve, and thank heaven that ball fell to a centre back and not a striker!

Poor Brad Rusin started the match at centre back still recovering from a badly sprained ankle, which he re-injured after 30 minutes, meaning he could not continue. With other centre backs Andy O’Brien and Johnny Leveron out with injuries, a look down the bench only turned up only DeMerit. It looked like Rusin was played knowing he would not last the match, and that DeMerit would come in later because he is not yet fit to play a whole match. In any event, Rusin showed he is not afraid to make a serious sacrifice for the team by playing injured, to his great credit.

DeMerit's return: can he turn our fortune's around?

DeMerit’s return: can he turn our season around?

As it turned out, DeMerit played wonderfully well for the final two-thirds of the match, and the whole team got a surge of confidence after he came on. DeMerit played his swashbuckling style, aggressively roving and tackling high up the park while Carlyle Mitchell competently provided coverage as last man. DeMerit nearly scored goals at both ends of the pitch in the second half, rattling a defensive header off of David Ousted’s goal post late on and sending an offensive header just over San Jose’s bar earlier in the half.

Our key strikers Kenny Miller and Camilo Sanvezzo came up barren once more, with Miller looking the more likely of the two to score. I don’t blame Camilo, because he gets no service from midfield. The fact we lack midfielders who can both create and score goals is a major reason we are in the poor position we are. Late in the first half Miller broke through deep in San Jose’s penalty area to the left of the Earthquake’s goal but had a poor shooting angle; Earthquakes’ goalkeeper Busch’s save bounced back to him but at such a rate that Kenny put the ball over the bar to the despair of his teammates who were hoping for a pass.

Carlyle Mitchell has certainly benefitted from his time at Edmonton FC. Last year he struggled because he was not properly prepared for games, but he now has the fitness and sharpness he was lacking before. Mitchell has looked like he belongs in Major League Soccer in the last few matches he has played due to the ongoing injury crisis at centre back. Early in the second half he thwarted Earthquakes’ danger man Chris Wondolowski’s header by blocking it before it could threaten Ousted’s goal. Five minutes later it was Ousted’s turn to gather a close range Wondolowski shot.

The last ten minutes were very exciting as both teams tried to score to better their playoff hopes. Camilo sulked off the pitch in the 83rd minute as Darren Mattocks was brought in to stretch San Jose’s defence with his speed. It worked very well as Mattocks’ runs created working room behind him for Kenny Miller.

In injury time Mattocks found himself bearing down on goal with the ball with Kenny Miller on his left and only one man to beat between them. With one pass Mattocks could have put Miller in alone on goal, but he was selfish and tried to beat two men with a jig to the right. He executed this play well, but his shot from 18 yards directly in front of goal went wide, which was unforgivable in the circumstances. A striker in that position has got to hit the net. The misery of Mattock’s poor season was once again visited upon him and us. Had Mattocks scored, we were back in the playoff hunt with Portland tying Chivas in Los Angeles and Dallas losing in Colorado. It just shows the difference between success and failure in the Western Conference of MLS is very close indeed.

The Whitecaps looked much better with YP Lee and Nigel Reo-Coker back in their natural positions. Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie must have learned his lesson from his terrible choices last week. Jun Marques Davidson looked solid and helped limit the Earthquakes to very few scoring opportunities. Poor Kekuta Manneh did not get in the game again, with the hard working Matt Watson preferred instead. It was a case of preferring defensive to offensive power, because Watson looked slow and ponderous on the ball when he got it. Perhaps it is a message to Manneh to work on the defensive side of his game.

Our chances of making the playoffs are still looking bleak. All of the teams above us are playing better than we are, and only a terrific run of form over the last six games, coupled with poor play by the teams above us will get us there. The only ray of hope is that the team’s true Captain, Jay DeMerit, is back and playing well. Could Jay’s re-introduction turn matters around?

We can only hope.

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