Vancouver Whitecaps FC @ New York City FC: 2-3
Experience trumped youth on Saturday afternoon as Vancouver Whitecaps FC (3W-5L-2D) fell 3-2 after a poor performance against New York City FC (2W-3L-4D) in the ‘Caps first game at the historic Yankee Stadium.
Facing their third match in eight days, head coach Carl Robinson was forced to make some tough decisions with his lineup, especially considering the suspension to star centre-back Kendall Waston and captain Pedro Morales staying at home after returning from injury off the bench midweek against Sporting Kansas City. Making seven changes in the starting eleven, Jordan Smith replaced Fraser Aird who picked up a knock on Wednesday, Pa-Modou Kah was on for the suspended Waston, Canadian Sam Adekugbe played as left-back to give Jordan Harvey a rest, Andrew Jacobson joined Matias Laba in the midfield in place of Russell Teibert to take on his old team, Kekuta Manneh took over for Cristian Techera after a strong showing off the bench against SKC, while Octavio Rivero rejoined the team replacing Matias Kudo.
With a tired team and a weakened backline, there were a lot of questions regarding the Whitecaps team facing an experienced but struggling NYCFC side. One of the biggest worries heading into the game was how the defence, made up mostly of bench players, would be able to neutralise a team with World Cup winners such as David Villa and Andrea Pirlo.
The odds weren’t looking great for the ‘Caps.
Only 37 seconds into the game, however, designated player Octavio Rivero got Vancouver off to a roaring start as he scored on a Nicolas Mezquida rebound, potting his first of the season and ending a long scoring drought for the Uruguayan.
It started to look like it could be a very successful outing for the Whitecaps as Rivero nearly doubled the lead in the 15th minute after a great pass from Mezquida, but he could not put the ball behind New York goalkeeper Josh Saunders.
Despite the strong start from the Uruguayan, Rivero’s game was cut short as he was replaced in the 27th minute by Blas Perez, as he was forced off with injury.
The situation worsened for Vancouver in the 35th minute when former Barcelona and Spain star David Villa levelled the game at 1-1, after an incredibly poor turnover by Jacobson in the midfield. Only six minutes later, the duo of World Cup champions linked up, as Villa scored an incredible goal off of a Pirlo corner kick. The goal was contentious as Laba was pulled down on the play, but nevertheless, the goal stood and NYCFC went into the halftime break with a 2-1 lead.
Just over 15 minutes into the second half, the Whitecaps had a glimmer of hope as Kekuta Manneh was fouled just inside the box. With Morales and Rivero, Vancouver’s two top penalty takers, not on the pitch, Kah pointed to veteran Christian Bolanos to take the penalty. Bolanos was fortunate, however. Saunders stopped his poor penalty kick, but Bolanos ran up to put away the rebound to even the score at 2-2 in the 63rd minute.
It was not meant to be for the ‘Caps, though. Substitute Steven Mendoza put NYCFC ahead again in the 73rd minute, and although the Whitecaps fought hard for the remainder of the game, they could not equalise, even against a New York team that was prone to choking.
Goalkeeper David Ousted put in a poor performance which is unusual for the Danish keeper who usually bails the ‘Caps out several times a game with big saves. The entirety of the blame cannot be placed on Ousted, however, as the defensive line was poor throughout the game, and the team cannot expect one player to consistently win games for them.
Rivero’s goal was huge for his confidence and it could be seen throughout his 26 minutes on the pitch. The Uruguayan put in his strongest performance of the year in his short time on the field, and the result could have been very different if he was on the field for the full 90 minutes.
Finally, Carl Robinson’s substitution of Blas Perez for the injured Rivero instead of Masato Kudo was questionable. While Kudo played 65 minutes on Wednesday against Sporting Kansas City, Kudo could’ve been a better choice to replace Rivero. While Perez is a strong super sub off the bench to score a late goal, the 35-year-old Panamanian does not look to have the stamina left in him to play at full intensity for 90 minutes, or even the 60 minutes he played on Saturday. Whether or not Kudo could’ve made a difference, Perez looked like wrong substitution.
The Whitecaps return home to BC Place next Saturday at 2:00 PM for their Cascadia Cup clash against the Portland Timbers. The ‘Caps lead the 2016 Cascadia Cup after their victory on the road against the Sounders. Pedro Morales should be expected to be back in the eighteen for Vancouver, however, Rivero’s status is unknown after his injury against NYCFC.
Substitutes: Perez for Rivero (27′), Techera for Manneh (78′), Hurtado for Bolanos (78′)
Unused Substitutes: Tornaghi, Harvey, Kudo, Teibert (CAN)
CAN – Canadian player
Whitecaps FC 2 @ St. Louis FC: Postponed
The Thundercaps faced their second postponed game of 2016 already, as lightning prevented play from taking place on Saturday night at World Wide Technology Soccer Park in St. Louis. After a nearly three-hour delay, the St. Louis FC Twitter account announced the game was cancelled.
With WFC2 already having made the trip to St. Louis, the game could be rescheduled to Sunday afternoon.
Heading into the game Whitecaps FC 2 are unbeaten with a record of 3W-0L-2T, while St. Louis FC have had an average start to the season at 2W-2L-2D.