Whitecaps beat MLS champs Sporting KC

August 11, 2014 at 9:16 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps season 2014 | 1 Comment
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Major League Soccer is a funny sort of league. Usually when the reigning champions come to town they do so with pride and swagger. Last year’s MLS champions, Sporting Kansas City, came to Vancouver with neither. They looked and played like they would rather be doing something else rather than playing football.

Graham Zusi, who just finished playing in the World Cup in Brazil for the USA barely showed up and did not really make a memorable play the entire match.

Morales free kick nearly got through

Morales free kick nearly got through

Lucky for us Vancouver Whitecaps fans the home team did show up. The Whitecaps out-worked and out-skilled SKC, smothering most of the creativity they had. Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson changed the back line by taking Carlyle Mitchell out and putting Andy O’Brien in. It was a good change, as O’Brien fought like a proud warrior all match and showed that experience is a key aspect of good defending. Andy put in a harsh tackle early on just to show who was boss at the back. He wrestled with SKC’s centre back Collin on corner kicks. O’Brien showed he is not dead yet, in fact, there is a lot of life left in the Irishman. It was a triumphant return with a clean sheet for O’Brien.

Up front Robinson stuck with speed as Darren Mattocks and Erik Hurtado ran all over the park like roadrunners. Fernandez and Morales provided the guile and skill. Koffie helped the team keep possession and Laba broke up attacks with uncannily timed tackles.

There was no question who was the best player on the pitch all night: Pedro Morales. His performance showed the farce that was the MLS All-star match. He was deemed not to be good enough to play in that match. Graham Zusi did play in the All-Star match and was nowhere near as good as Morales was.

Morales and Mattocks on the move

Morales and Mattocks on the move

Both goals came from superb passes from Morales. On the first goal Morales took the ball in his own end looking like a right back, and lashed the ball towards Fernandez at the edge of SKC’s penalty area. It was intercepted by defender Juliao who headed the ball back to his keeper Gruenebaum. Juliao did not realize his goalkeeper had come far out of his net to retrieve the ball, and ended up nodding the ball over the onrushing keeper into his own net.

How rare it is that the Whitecaps get such breaks! The old football maxim which says “a good ball is never wasted” came to mind. Morales is the kind of player who can put pressure on defences and force errors. It was one-nil after 17 minutes.

Our Chilean star was at it again late in the first half when SKC coughed up the ball, giving possession to the Whitecaps. Morales skipped over a blatant attempt to bring him down and joined Mattocks in a two on one rush. Mattocks made an intelligent run behind and across Morales, and the Chilean slipped the ball past the last defender Collin to Mattocks. Mattocks took one touch and scored on a low shot.

Morales also put Fernandez in alone with the keeper only to have Collin clear a dribbler from going into his own goal with a desperate lunge. The Whitecaps went to the dressing room at half time with a score which is only rarely overturned in the second half of a football match: 2-0.

Mattocks forces a save

Mattocks forces a save

The second half was a scrappy shapeless affair, and only for brief spells did SKC threaten the Whitecaps goal. When they did big David Ousted looked as solid as a rock.

The Whitecaps had their chances, notably a header off of a corner kick by Johnny Leveron that a defender cleared off of the line.

Late on in the match referee David Gantar awarded the Whitecaps the softest penalty in the history of football when big Whitecaps substitute Omar Salgado backed in to Collin, pushing him over in the penalty area. Gantar though Collin had tugged Salgado down. In any other league in the world it would not be called but this is MLS. Several Whitecaps players vied to take the kick but striker Mattocks eventually took the ball. He missed, bringing a good save from SKC substitute keeper Kempin, who saved the Champions from an embarrassing scoreline.

The win brought to an end a long period without one for the Whitecaps, and took them back up to fifth place in the playoff spots for the Western Conference. With rivals showing no signs of slipping the Whitecaps will have to win a playoff spot on their own merit rather than relying on poor form from their rivals.

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