Whitecaps awake in 2016 with Cascadia winMarch 20, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016 | 1 Comment
Tags: Blas Perez, Carl Robinson, Cascadia Cup, Cascadia derby, Christian Bolanos, Clint Dempsey, major league soccer, Obafemi Martins, pedro, Pedro Morales, Seattle Sounders, Vancouver Whitecaps
After walking in their sleep through two early season matches the Vancouver Whitecaps finally woke up to the 2016 season in time to beat our greatest rival, the Seattle Sounders, 2-1. It was a tough, physical contest in front of another big Seattle crowd with about 800-1000 Whitecaps fans making the trip down South.
Coach Carl Robinson proved his courage as a manager and played two strikers instead of his usual one. Robinson favoured a 4-4-2 formation to his usual 4-2-3-1 setup, which was a gamble considering we were on the road playing against a powerful Cascadia rival.
Blas Perez has proven himself to be too good to start a match on the bench in the first two games this season. He was handed a well-deserved start alongside Octavio Rivero up front. Pedro Morales and Mathias Laba played central midfield flanked by Bolanos on the right and Manneh on the left. Fraser Aird took to the field having won the argument between himself and Jordan Smith concerning the right back position. Parker and Waston played the middle and Harvey played left back. The ever present David Ousted wore the keeper’s gloves.
Pedro Morales proved to be the central figure of this match. He was involved in all three goals, two as penalty taker and one as the guy who defended poorly. Perez was the other key man for the Whitecaps. He was crucially involved in both goals the Whitecaps scored.
Perez created the first goal early in the match with a perfectly weighted pass to Bolanos, who was making a well-timed surging run around Seattle’s defender Jones in to Seattle’s box. Bolanos was slightly clipped on his way by Jones and went down in the box. Replays did not show any detectable contact, but Bolanos went down in a manner that suggested there was contact, however slight it was. Referee Mark Geiger immediately called for a penalty which Morales dispatched with his usual calm. It was a perfect start for our road warriors and it was 1-0 after only ten minutes.
The Whitecaps had a very solid and mentally sharp first half. Ousted looked very sharp in goal, coming to claim crosses calmly, and his confidence spread through the team. One Whitecap who looked really good was Fraser Aird. Though he tends to get caught out of position occasionally, he was competitive physically and his speed was a big asset to Vancouver.
Seattle are obviously having teething problems since the departure of Obafemi Martins, who has gone off to China to capitalize on the massive money being thrown at players over there. Nelson Valdez, new boy Jordan Morris, and the surly Clint Dempsey struggled to find any rhythm up front all night against our well organized defence.
The Sounders scored on a free kick to equalize six minutes into the second half. Dempsey found a gap in the Whitecaps’ defence and was running through it when Morales brought him down just outside the box. The Whitecaps set up a wall but put it too far to the left, leaving the near post exposed. Morales took his spot on the far right of the wall, and Seattle’s Ivanshitz curled it round him as Morales turned his back on the ball. Poor Pedro looked a bit sheepish having conceded the foul and then having looked weak in the wall. It was 1-1.
Both teams looked poor in the second half, which was spent mostly in the Whitecaps’ half. The Whitecaps in particular struggled to make use of the ball and poor passes meant they turned the ball over to Seattle again and again. Thankfully the Whitecaps were sharp in defending and did not concede for the rest of the match.
The match was decided on another controversial penalty call. Again Morales was involved. He curled a deadly accurate pass on to Perez to run onto. The ball curled on to Perez’ left side and Perez moved to his right to block Seattle defender Marshall who made a reckless lunge across Perez’ body to get to the ball. Marshall got to the ball but only through clattering Perez and bringing him down. Geiger again blew his whistle, and Seattle players and fans went bonkers. Really they had nothing to complain about since Marshall was slow to react to Perez’s run and then made a desperate gamble to stop him with a foolish lunge. All of the experience and strength of Perez made that play successful for the Whitecaps.
Morales made up for his earlier defensive errors and put us on top again; it was 2-1 Whitecaps with fifteen minutes to go.
Seattle laid siege to our goal and their efforts culminated in a clear goal scoring opportunity as Dempsey arrived late in the box for an open shot from a cross from the left of goal. Dempsey tried to side foot the ball into the far corner but missed with inches to spare. He rightly hung his head in shame because it should have been 2-2, and all of that money he gets paid as a designated player looked mis-spent.
Just before injury time Bolanos and Perez conspired to give Techera a clear shot at goal from close range but the wee man did a Dempsey and fired just wide on the volley. Had that gone in it would have been a real beauty.
Ousted et al did all they needed to do to preserve the advantage and it ended in a stirring win to set our season on the right path. It was very satisfying because it meant our rivals the Sounders are now in a tailspin having lost their first three matches.
The off season acquisition of Blas Perez looks to have been a master stroke. Christian Bolanos, after a quiet start, is also looking very valuable. Full marks went to Carl Robinson. While it was too early to call our slow start to the season a crisis, the players really let Robbo down in the first two games and he has now righted the ship. There was no doubt the players all gave 100% for the jersey on this night, and all played as they should have.
A very satisfying win indeed, and Whitecaps version 2016 has finally arrived.