Tags: Carl Robinson, Christian Bolanos, Christian Techera, Freddy Montero, LA Galaxy, Mathias Laba, MLS, Vancouver Whitecaps
What a change! After three matches in which no Whitecaps player has played well we get a match in which it is hard to pick man of the match because so many played so well. Was it Montero, who scored one and created two more? Was it Laba who score two? Was it Techera who got it all rolling, scoring one and creating another? Was it Tchani, who, in his debut match for the Whitecaps played for 30 minutes and was on the pitch for 3 Whitecaps goals?
To say this match was blessed relief would be an understatement. We were actually able to experience joy at BC Place for the first time in 2017 MLS match play after two truly awful home games against Philly and Toronto.
Coach Carl Robinson started the match with an accent on speed and muscularity up front with striker Hurtado and youngster Davies on the left wing. Techera, the speedy little Bug, started on right wing flanking Christian Bolanos who got the nod as the number 10 midfielder. Jacobsen and Laba lined up in defensive midfield in front of a back line of Harvey, Waston, Parker and Williams. David Ousted pulled the gloves on and played keeper.
Christian Techera was the player who took the leadership role early on in the game for the Whitecaps. The Bug was buzzing around and nearly gave us an early goal after beating a few defenders in the Galaxy’s 18 yard box but his close range shot was parried by brave keeper Diop in LA’s goal.
On twenty minutes Whitecaps fullback Williams switched the ball to the left side finding Techera who had made a blind side run unnoticed by the LA defence. Keeper Diop came out of his area and got beaten to the ball by Techera, who took the ball clumsily, but managed to bundle the ball into the back of the net from 20 yards. It was the start we needed.
As one would expect from the Galaxy there were some quality players on the pitch including Gio Dos Santos, Ashley Cole, Jelle Van Damme, and a lesser known player called Alessandrini. Alessandrini made himself more famous by scoring two very well taken goals in the space of four minutes. It was 1-2 Galaxy making it eight goals the Whitecaps have conceded in four MLS matches.
Davies had a chance to score when he ball fell loose to him after Diop cleared the ball from out of his area straight to his feet, but the youngster decided to dribble instead and passed the ball to Techera, whose off-balance shot went wide of the net on 45 minutes.
At half time there was a bit of a sinking feeling, but when Robinson took Hurtado off and put Montero in we felt the game might change. Another change that brought success was newcomer Tony Tchani, who came in for Jacobsen. Within three minutes of his appearance in the 64th minute, the Whitecaps had scored two goals.
That man Techera was involved again when he was found by Davies who made perfect cross straight to the wee man’s foot. Techera beat a man and then forced Diop to make a difficult save which rebounded to Montero who put his first MLS goal in for the Whitecaps. It was 2-2 on 66 minutes.
Right after the kickoff LA coughed up the ball in midfield and the Whitecaps embarked on a quick counter attack. Montero got the ball on the left and passed the ball to Laba, who was at the top of the penalty area. Laba struck the ball low to Diop’s right and into the net.
Montero was again involved as he won the ball deep in LA territory and slotted the ball into the path of Bolanos, who beat Diop but not the sprawling Ashley Cole who came to his keeper’s rescue.
It was Montero yet again who broke free down the right on a counter attack in the 87th minute with LA thin at the back. Montero struck a deadly dipping low shot to the keeper’s left, forcing him to parry into the path of a surging laba, who headed home an easy one from close range. The Whitecaps were rampant, and Laba had scored two goals on his 100th MLS appearance.
It was a convincing win the Whitecaps badly needed. With the team looking terrible through the first three MLS games, Coach Robinson must have been fearing for his job. The players came through for him, however, and demonstrated there is actually great hope for the 2017 season. The team proved they can score and play entertaining football.
On the other side of the coin is our leaky defence. If a team concedes an average of two goals a game there is a problem. Tony Tchani may well prove the solution to this problem, however. When Tchani came on the team looked confident and had a spine it did not have before. The team also started moving the ball through the midfield for the first time this year as well, which is very promising.
While we were all sad to see Scooter go, the Manneh-Tchani trade looks like a trade up.
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.