Core Whitecaps players let team down in 2016 home openerMarch 7, 2016 at 9:08 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016 | 1 Comment
Tags: Carl Robinson, First Kick 2016, Kekuta Manneh, major league soccer, Montreal Impact, Pedro Morales, Vancouver Whitecaps
The reason the Vancouver Whitecaps lost their 2016 season opener yesterday was simple: the two best players on the pitch were on the other team, the Montreal Impact. While Montreal’s big star Didier Drogba was a no-show, people were asking “Didier who?” after the Impact’s number 10 Ignatio Piatti’s brilliant performance. Patti made monkeys of the Whitecaps all afternoon at BC Place and scored two beautifully taken goals to sink the Whitecaps’ hopes of a win in their home opener. Montreal’s keeper Evan Bush was next best after Piatti, and was cool under pressure, making save after save. He robbed Octavio Rivero in the second half with a brilliant match-deciding save.
Our big players let us down in this match with inconsistent play, outrageous gaffes, and just plain mediocre performances. David Ousted, Kendall Waston, Pedro Morales and Kekuta Manneh were all strangely off in what should have been a blockbuster start to 2016. Whitecaps showed great promise during certain periods in this match, and created many scoring chances. A lack of mental sharpness meant the 2016 season started with an awful thud.
Coach Carl Robinson started two newcomers in a strong starting 11 with Ousted in goal, and new boy Fraser Aird joining Waston, Parker and Harvey on the back line. Kianz Froese started alongside Laba in defensive midfield, while Morales was flanked by new man Christian Bolanos and the Bug, Christian Techera. Octavio Rivero started up front as lone striker.
Rivero had no less than five good chances to score, but his 2015 luck continued to dog him in this match. He hit the crossbar, and was foiled by Impact keeper Bush on three of his other chances. The good news is that he is getting chances, and I am convinced the goals will come.
New man Fraser Aird was just one of a gang of Whitecaps who were undressed by Piatti on the way to Montreal’s first goal on twenty minutes. A neat one-two at the top of the Whitecaps box had our defenders ball watching and static as Patti nut-megged Bolanos, dispatched with Aird and faked a shot to put Waston off balance before scoring the kind of goal the good kids score on the playground at lunch time. It was fantasy football stuff yet we Whitecaps fans had to watch it really happen in front of us at BC Place to put us down 0-1.
Montreal’s next goal was another bit of Patti magic as he scooted a perfectly weighted through ball for striker Oduro to run on to. Oduro had the jump on a napping Waston as keeper Ousted rushed out of his box to clear. Waston regained the advantage on Oduro and left the ball for Ousted to clear. Unfortunately, the big Dane had other ideas and failed to follow through. The ball was left for Oduro to stroke into the goal unchallenged by any Whitecaps defender. It was a calamity and Ousted raised his hand after the match and took full responsibility, to his credit.
All looked to be lost with the Whitecaps down 0-2 after 42 minutes. Two minutes later and it was game on again. Techera earned a free kick on the right flank and Morales curled a fantastic free kick to the far post which dropped to a surprisingly open Jordan Harvey, who volleyed the ball into the net. Both teams seemed unable to defend relatively simple plays and it was 1-2 with the Whitecaps back in it at half time.
The Whitecaps deserved more in the first half, having created a lot of offensive pressure and chances to score. New man Bolanos looked cool and intelligent on the ball, and could be see tracking back to defend as well. Froese played very well indeed and must be making fellow Canadian Russell Teibert nervous with his performance as the new guy in Gershon Koffie’s old spot. Froese created a chance and had a crack at goal which went over the bar.
The feeling at half time was that the Whitecaps could still win this game, or at least tie it up. After 15 minutes of frustration Whitecaps manager Carl Robinson made his first change, and it looked like a good one. Techera, who had an average match, gave way to Manneh after 61 minutes. We expected Manneh to tear Montreal to ribbons but, like many Whitecaps on this day, he gave a muted performance. Perhaps he is still struggling for fitness because of his ankle injury on the BC place plastic grass during the 2015 playoff match against Portland.
Manneh had one quality contribution which was a perfect cross for Rivero to head into the net, only for Bush to make a world class save from him. Blas Perez was next on after 65, with Froese giving way. Perez looked sharp but never got a chance, but only because he was largely ignored by Pedro Morales who chose to send a lot of long balls elsewhere. Masato Kudo came on or Rivero in the 81st minute but too late to make any kind of real impression.
Captain Morales had a poor second half. He was dropped back deep to try to find forwards with long passes. It didn’t work and Morales’ choices often looked poor as did his execution. Late on in the game, and with the Whitecaps pushing almost all men forward, Morales lofted a rediulously easy ball for Montreal’s keeper Bush to intercept; Bush then immediately launched the counter attack to kill the Whitecaps with a third Montreal goal. I expect better than that from our Captain and best player; it really was very poor. The best that can be said was that Morales tracked back and tried in vain to stop Patti from scoring another excellent goal. Patti’s finish was intelligent and patient, putting both Morales and Ousted out of position with a little stutter step before delivering the coup de gras.
The Whitecaps pulled one back in injury time with Bolanos curling a perfect corner kick for Waston to climb and head into the net. The Whitecaps had found their quality too late however, and the Whistle blew to end the match.
The look on Coach Robbo’s face after the two goals told the whole story: his players had not played for him but had given half-hearted performances not worthy of the club and its fans. The players were still in pre-season game mode and their heads were not in it. Our best players let the team down and must take the responsibility for the loss.