Vancouver Whitecaps let city down in Cascadia crashSeptember 1, 2014 at 6:46 pm | Posted in Whitecaps season 2014 | 2 Comments
Tags: Darlington Nagbe, Mathias Laba, Pedro Morales, Portland Timbers
The stage was perfectly set for a thrilling match: the Vancouver Whitecaps verses the Portland Timbers. It was a sold out match of 21,000 fans on a Saturday night at BC Place. Hundreds of away fans made their way up from Portland to see their team play the Whitecaps. The Whitecaps had two new players in the line up, the giant Kendall Waston from Costa Rica and the tricky veteran Mauro Rosales from Argentina. We had the home field advantage. I was pumped walking to the stadium, looking forward to a close match but one in which the Whitecaps would surely prevail.
The Whitecaps players let us down on this night with a terrible performance. The team was bad, almost to a man. It was Portland that played like the home team. The match statistics had Portland with 54% of the ball…on our home turf.
Though there was plenty of blame to go around, I have to begin with our captain, Pedro Morales, who floated around the pitch like a butterfly all match. For the last three matches Morales has been terrible. He has been giving the ball away time after time, pulling out of tackles, and his finishing has been pathetic. We are paying a lot for a guy who does not seem to be trying all that hard. We fans at least deserve some effort from our players when we pay for our ticket. Robinson should have walked up to Morales after the match to demand the captain’s arm band from this guy and walk over and give it to Rosales. Rosales gave his all right until the end to the match.
Coach Robinson started Kendall Waston in the center back position for Johhny Leveron, who was signing autographs out in front of BC Place due to his suspension. Andy O’Brien, Jordan Harvey and Steven Beitashour completed our back four. Mathias Laba was back in his spot after his suspension, and Russell Teibert filled in for Gershon Koffie in defensive midfield. Pedro Morales had Kekuta Manneh and new guy Mauro Rosales flanking him, and Erik Hurtado ran about as our lone striker.
The Whitecaps started the match well, attacking the Timbers along the flanks through Beitashour and Rosales on the right side, and Manneh and Harvey on the left. Our right sided pair was working well together, and Rosales floated a perfect cross for Morales in the first minutes of the match only for the Chilean designated player to head a sitter over the net. Had he taken the chance, this night may have had a different result.
The first half was a cagey, tense affair with both teams trying not to lose the match. The Whitecaps played like a team hoping to win 1-0 or draw, if necessary. They started the game two points ahead of Portland for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference of the MLS. It was honours even at half time, but the Timbers soon showed who had the class on this night with three goals in the 51, 71 and 79th minute.
The Timbers won this match because they put 11 men on the pitch. This was a game for men, but there were too many boys in the Whitecaps starting 11. Hurtado, Teibert and Manneh all looked like kids ill-equipped to compete in this game. We had all hoped that these three and other young players would have grown more in character, but the fact is they haven’t, and the team is suffering for it. All three looked out of their depths in this match. Teibert, in particular, was no replacement for Gershon Koffie; he looked uncomfortable with the ball at his feet, and virtually disappeared for large parts of the game. Manneh played for 60 minutes and did not produce either a good cross or a shot on goal. His play has been terrible of late. When Mattocks came on for him, it was a relief. How many times did our midfielders have possession of the ball and look up to find that Hurtado had disappeared? Hurtado made no good runs and had feet of stone. Consequently the Whitecaps, the home team, produced fewer shots and opportunities than Portland, the away side.
The first two Portland goals came from Jordan Harvey’s side of the pitch, and were the result of very poor defending by the Whitecaps. On the first, Harvey was left alone to cope with two men, but approached neither, allowing the Timber’s best playmaker, Diego Valeri, to cross freely into Timbers striker Powell who was unmarked and forgotten by big Waston. Poor Andy O’Brien was the only defender to read the play properly, but was left trying to defend against two strikers. Whether it was because the Whitecaps were playing with Waston for the first time or it was something else, the organization on the Whitecaps defence was an absolute shambles. Neither Valeri nor Powell had to worry about being marked at all. This was just like last week when the Whitecaps defense forgot about the best player on the other team when Landon Donovan was allowed to score competely unmarked.
Mattocks and Rosales had chances in the second half to equalize, though the former let himself down with his first touch, allowing Portland’s defender to catch up with him. Mattocks effort was really the only time that Portland’s keeper Ricketts had to make a challanging save. Rosales curled his right footed shot just wide of the near post after receiving a well-placed through ball from Teibert.
The match was put beyond hope in the 71st minute as Portland substitute Harrington was allowed to run all the way down the field by Matias Laba (who was oddly chasing him down the right flank); Harrington found a completely unmarked Urruti with a low cross. Urruti is another star player who got three touches on the ball in our 18 yard box without any opposition before he shot the ball. This time Waston slipped and fell on BC Place’s terrible field turf, but the Whitecaps defensive line was so deep there was huge amounts of room for Portland attackers to work. The ball flashed past Ousted like a rocket and went in off the bar. It was 2-0 and many Whitecaps fans got up and left with twenty minutes on the clock; such was the poverty of the Whitecaps game the writing was on the wall.
The many fans who left early were proven correct; Portland scored another soon after and it was 3-0. This goal was created by Darlington Nagbe, the fellow who was picked number two after Omar Salgado in the 2011 draft (Salgado was not even on the bench in this match). Nagbe skinned Matias Laba and spotted a perfectly timed run by Rodney Wallace, who calmly slotted the ball home past Ousted.
Mathias Laba allowed himself to be beaten on both the second and third goals. It was the poorest match we have seen from Laba all year. Usually Laba is very reliable but he played like one of the kids in this match.
Of all of the Whitecaps players, only O’Brien and Rosales played full matches. Is there any coincidence that it is our older professionals who gave their all until the end of the match?
This match was an awful experience. We suffered our worst defeat of the year at the hands of our Cascadia Rivals. It doesn’t get much worse than this.
The only bright side to the whole exercise is that we are still in a good position to get a playoff spot. We are still have one game in hand over fifth placed Portland and we are only one point behind them for the last playoff spot.
The Whitecaps had better develop a spine this week because they face the best team in the Eastern Conference next weekend: DC United. If the Whitecaps lose that one, our prospects of a playoff spot will begin to fade.