This evening the Whitecaps took on Stabæk Fotbal of the Norwegian Tippeligaen in their second match of Portland’s Simple Invitational. Despite fielding their B team featuring trialists and residency players, the ‘Caps were successful against the European club, winning 3-2 with the first goal coming from Mezquida in the thirteenth minute, a penalty scored by Mattocks in the twenty-third minute, and a brace from the Jamaican striker in the forty-fourth minute. The game should be considered as a success for the Whitecaps due to the weakened team and tough competition.
The Whitecaps fielded a familiar 4-2-3-1 formation against Stabæk today, with Paulo Tornaghi in goal. Ethen Sampson, Christian Dean, Diego Rodriguez, and Sam Adekugbe formed the back line for most of the game, with Gershon Koffie and Ben McKendry ahead of them. Erik Hurtado, Nicolas Mezquida, and Marco Bustos were the three starting attacking mids, with Darren Mattocks as the lone striker. Robinson made eight subs over the course of the game with Mitch Piraux, Tim Parker, Kianz Froese, and Robert Earnshaw being subbed on during the sixty-ninth minute for Koffie, Rodriguez, McKendry, and Bustos respectively. In the seventy-ninth minute the two new Colombian trialists came on, Harold Gomez and Ruben Anchico, for Adekugbe and Hurtado. Finally, Robinson made his last subs in the eighty-third minute with Canadians Jackson Farmer and Caleb Clarke being brought on for Sampson and Mattocks.
Striker Darren Mattocks was one of the shining stars today, hoping to earn his place in the Starting XI come March 7th against Toronto. He scored two goals in the first half, and could have easily had two more in the second half, but was denied by Stabæk’s superb Indian keeper. The other goal scorer Nicolas Mezquida also performed well, scoring with a chip over Stæbek’s keeper, and showcasing his passing skills. He fully deserves a spot in the Caps’ line up against TFC, but who he could displace in the three attacking midfielders is a big decision for Robinson to make.
The starting back four for the Whitecaps really impressed during the match. While Rodriquez was quiet apart from drawing a penalty and then giving one away, Sampson, Dean, and Adekugbe seemed to be fully in sync with one another. If they start as defenders for WFC2, they can provide problems for USL attacking forces. With Harvey, Watson, Kah, and Beitashour already showcasing their skills on Sunday against the Timbers, it is quite apparent the ‘Caps are spoiled for defensive depth.
When it came to goalkeeping, look out Ousted! Aside from the penalty and own goal from Gomez, Tornaghi put in a dominant performance, proving he should get some minutes for the Whitecaps this season. With the talent that he showcased in net tonight, it would be a shame to watch him waste away on the bench again this season. The Italian keeper could easily start for many MLS teams.
But not everyone in blue this evening was perfect . From the looks of the game tonight, the ‘Caps will not be in any hurry to sign the two Colombian trialists to contracts. Anchico was almost invisible in the eleven plus minutes he spent on the pitch, and unfortunately Gomez wasn’t, as he slotted an own goal past Tornaghi in the eighty-first minute. The final decision comes up to Robinson, but the two South Americans showed tonight they are not the right fit.
There were quite a few positives that came from Providence Park tonight, as the Whitecaps maintain their first spot in the Simple Invitational. The result from the Timbers and Fire later tonight will set up what could be a thrilling finish between the Fire and ‘Caps on Saturday. It was another thrilling game from Portland, with one more to come. Stay tuned for an exciting finish.