Rivero strikes again in Whitecaps Orlando win

March 22, 2015 at 4:16 pm | Posted in Whitecaps season 2015 | Leave a comment
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The number 29 is becoming a special number in Vancouver Whitecaps history. Prior to its current owner, it belonged to Eric Hassli, who was the Whitecaps first star of the MLS era. Hassli brought the team its first goal of MLS play and scored some incredible scorchers off of his powerful right foot.

Now the number 29 belongs to Octavio Rivero, who is a different kind of footballer. Hassli was raw passion and thunder; Rivero is intelligence and cunning. Rivero brings a rare tactical sophistication to the Whitecaps. His instinct for being in the right spot at the right time is great, and the timing of his runs is superb. Like many Latin American footballers, his athleticism is good, but his sharp football thinking is what makes him special.

Walls of purple surrounded the Whitecaps on all sides as they walked in to play at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. Only the lower bowl was open this time, but more than 30,000 Orlando fans still created a hostile atmosphere for the Whitecaps. It was a hot and humid affair; the players were all soaked through with sweat soon after kickoff.

In this match the Whitecaps made three changes to the starting line up from last week’s match in Chicago. Pa Modou Kah gave way to Diego Rodriguez at centre back, Russell Teibert gave his spot to Gershon Koffie, and Nico Mezquida took over from an injured Mauro Rosales. Robinson’s plan became clear: cede possession to Orlando, frustrate their game, and hope to score on the counter attack. The Whitecaps plugged up the middle of the park and camped out in front of their 18 yard box, with clear instructions not to let anyone inside the box.

Lets's hope brave Sam is OK

Lets’s hope brave Sam is OK

Orlando’s star Brazilian Kaka faced a forest of legs in front of him whenever he got the ball, and was frustrated for the entire match. Consequently, apart from a few occasions, Orlando resorted to long-range efforts which flew over the Whitecaps’ goal. Kendall Waston and keeper David Ousted took care of the high balls that came in. In injury time Orlando’s Canadian striker Larin got through only to have Ousted save the match by diving at his feet and knocking the ball away with his hand. It was one of the few times Orlando got into the Whitecaps box with possession of the ball.

Koffee was tasked with shutting down runs down the middle from Kaka, and did his job ferociously. He earned an early yellow card for an over-enthusiastic challenge. The Whitecaps rode their luck as the referee did not blow for a penalty when Waston knocked Molino over in the box in the first half, and Kekuta Manneh got away with a nasty two-footed lunge on Aurelien Collin just before being substituted in the second half. Manheh still has not tamed his red mist problem; he could have thrown the whole match away had the ref got that call right and got out his red card.

Poor Sam Adekugbe bravely challenged the giant Donovan Rickets in Orlando’s goal in the second half and, as would be expected, came off the worse for it. He was taken off in an ambulance with apparent rib injuries. It looks like he will be out for at least three weeks while his ribs heal up. It was a tough break for Adekugbe, who looked to become the presumptive starter for the Whitecaps at left back, and was just about to play for Canada’s senior men’s team.

Pedro Morales still looked a bit off in this match. Morales has had a rough time of it recently and has had a lot of things to take his mind off of his game. He has a new daughter and has been ill the last week or so. All the Whitecaps seem to need from Morales, however, is one or two moments of magic in order to win. Morales put Rivero through with a brilliant slide-rule pass in the first half. Deep in injury time it was Morales’ brilliant dipping free kick which Rivero deflected with the back of his head into the net. When Morales comes home next week I think we will see him in the form we are more used to from last year.

Rivero could have had three goals in this game. In the first half he nearly scored on a breakaway and hit the crossbar as well. Just prior to his goal he fell injured with cramp in his calf, but he picked himself up to limp his way into the penalty box to score the winning goal. All Rivero had to do was get a piece of the ball to deflect past Ricketts in Orlando’s goal, such was the pace Morales put on the ball.

It was a pretty poor match to watch up until the minutes before the final whistle. This year’s Whitecaps team is the hardest to beat yet, with strength and fight in every position. Substitutes like Kianz Froese came on and battled just as hard as the starters did. The Whitecaps played an intelligent and tough away game with a clear strategy which paid off in spades.

Coach Carl Robinson got this one absolutely right. His Whitecaps team has bounced back from the opening day disappointment against Toronto with two stunning away wins.

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