Robbie Earnshaw wins it in Cascadia clashMarch 29, 2015 at 3:14 pm | Posted in Whitecaps season 2015 | 2 Comments
Tags: Cascade derby, Cascadia Cup, Pedro Morales, Portland Timbers, Robbie Earnshaw, Vancouver Whitecaps, Wales
Vancouver Whitecaps heroes recently come from Uruguay, Argentina or Costa Rica, but last night’s hero came from Wales. Robbie Earnshaw, who was only signed by the Vancouver Whitecaps on Thursday after hanging around the squad since training camp, scored the winner in the 90th minute after coming into the match in the 87th.
It was a a tense, chippy match from the start, which was always going to be an odd one because of the absences of players on both sides. The Whitecaps were missing Kekuta Manneh and Diego Rodriguez through suspension, Mauro Rosales through injury, and Darren Mattocks was off on international duty with Jamaica.
A big surprise was that Sam Adekugbe was fit to play at left back after having his ribs damaged last week in Orlando. Pa Modou Kah, Kendall Waston and Steven Beitashour lined up with him in defence. Matias Laba and Gershon Koffie plugged up central midfield, while Mesquida took Manneh’s spot on the left, Eric Hurtado took Mauro Rosales spot on the right, and Captain Pedro Morales occupied central midfield behind sole striker Ocatavio Rivero.
The Whitecaps again ceded the majority of possession to their opponent and put their money on lightning counter attacks to win the match. As many sitting around me commented, it was rather like watching the Whitecaps play an away match. Perhaps the experience of being burned by TFC on match day 1 taught Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson a lesson.
The Whitecaps took advantage early of some fouls Portland committed in their own final third of the field. Morales shot one free kick against the wall and Mezquida lined up another and shot over the wall to beat Portland’s keeper Kwarasay low to his right. It was 15 minutes in and the Whitecaps were ahead 1-0. Once they had scored, the Whitecaps were happy to sit back and soak up pressure from Portland for the rest of the half, looking to score on the counter-attack.
Just like the match against Toronto on the first day of the season, the Whitecaps came out flat and uninspired in the second half. One has to wonder about the quality of leadership in the dressing room at half time. Coach Robinson and Captain Morales must do better with their half-time talks; the players play as though they had been hearing lullabies.
Though it was fun to watch the Whitecaps win, the second half only served to prove it was not a deserved victory. The Whitecaps won only because of luck and superb goalkeeping by David Ousted.
In the second half the Whitecaps gave up possession cheaply time and time again, desperately clearing the ball directly back to Portland’s players. They only rarely won second and lose balls from Portland. The Whitecaps were deeply pinned into their own final third of the pitch and could not find their way out.
In the 57th minute Robinson took out Mezquida, who had largely disappeared after scoring his goal, and put the stocky Kianz Froese into the match. The move only partially worked; Froese mostly failed to pick up players and Portland had a field day with youngsters Froese and Adekugbe on the right side. Froese also looked immobile when he got possession of the ball. He is a work in progress.
Gershon Koffie got the hook in the 72nd minute. He did not have the best match and got an early yellow card. Robinson put young Honduran Deybi Flores in, which shocked us in the stands. Flores helped the Whitecaps move the ball out of their own end, but looked vulnerable defending. His speed on the ball was fantastic, but his close control let him down on one late rush. Overall the impression of Flores was very good. We will undoubtedly see him in action again in the near future.
The crucial substitution came late in the match as Hurtado gave way to new signing Earnshaw. We all knew we would probably see him in this match, and all had this uncanny feeling that he was going to score. Oddly enough Robinson himself said after the match he had similar premonitions.
Ousted had just made a match-saving stop when Flores got possession of the ball in the middle of the park and spotted Morales running towards the center as well. Flores played a perfect pass to Morales, who took one touch and spotted Earnshaw. Earnshaw was cheating behind Portland’s centre backs Borchers and Ridgewell, who tried to put him offside. Luckily the Timber’s right fullback was late coming out and Earnshaw was alone with the ball and onside. Earnshaw took one touch with his left foot and deftly chipped a low shot over the onrushing Kwarasay into the corner of the net with his right.
The joy and pandemonium at BC Place was something to experience. Earnshaw did his patented flip and looked as though he would burst into tears. The Whitecaps had stolen the match, and we all enjoyed the rush of pleasure thieves must feel when they have been successful. It was the first time we have beaten Portland at BC Place.
While Earnshaw got the glory, David Ousted’s performance was the best we had seen since Brad Knighton’s stonewalling of Seattle a few years back. Ousted made several match saving stops and caught seemingly endless crosses that Portland was pumping into our box, especially from the right. The final whistle came after he had snagged yet another cross.
As we made our way from the stadium all wondered how long can we keep getting away with this. Are the Whitecaps lucky or resilient? Is giving up possession of the ball and hoping to score on counter attacks our new mode of operation both home and away?
Whatever the answers to these questions will be, on this night we got a thriller of a match and went home well satisfied after beating a Cascadia rival yet again.