VANCOUVER, B.C - The Whitecaps and Rapids both resumed MLS play after a 10-day break between action. The Rapids have tripped up the Whitecaps with a pair of surprising victories at home earlier in the season. Vancouver were out to avenge those losses while trying to catch the LA Galaxy for top spot in Major League Soccer. On this occasion Carl Robinson's lads played an attack-oriented match and prevailed with a 2-0 win in front of 17,583 fans at BC Place.
The dynamic Uruguayan duo of Octavio Rivero and Cristian Techera both scored in the second half against a defensive unit that appeared to be caught napping. Kekuta Manneh added his team leading 6th assist of the season and David Outsed earned his MLS leading 11th clean sheet of the season. Rivero spoke about the importance of playing each match strong and seeing out the season by continuing to play hard. Colorado had previously been a hurdle for the Whitecaps, but Rivero helped to put an end to that.
“Every game from here on is almost like a cup final. It’s the way we’ve got to treat it. We want to finish the season strong and become champions at the end of the season. What we need to do is just keep going, playing hard and playing well and the results will follow.”
Carl Robinson expected a tough match from Colorado and was pleased his team earned a big win.
"I knew it was going to be difficult by the way Colorado Rapids set up and the personnel on their team. They have beaten us twice. Our guys showed great character to keep going and not take their focus and confidence away. When you got quality on your team like we have, you can change a game in a moment and that’s what certainly happened."
The Opening 45
Suspensions to Matias Laba and Kendall Waston meant that Carl Robinson was forced into altering his lineup. Pedro Morales made his first start in a holding midfield position. The goal being that he would be free to move up in a 4-2-3-1 formation as long as he did not stray from his defensive responsibilities. At times Vancouver also played in a 4-4-2 diamond formation with Gershon Koffie playing in front of the back-line.
The first twenty minutes of the match were played quite tentatively. Vancouver carried the majority of possession, but were unable to get anything going in the final third. After being named the 9th fastest player in the video game FIFA 16, Kekuta Manneh had bursts along the left flank. His shot attempts on target were wild and did little to trouble Rapids keeper Clint Irwin.
Manager Pablo Mastroeni has not seen the best out of his team throughout the season. Defensively, the Rapids came into this match as the stingiest team in terms of goals allowed. Scoring goals, however, seems to be something they have no idea how to do. Colorado struggled to nick the ball off of the Whitecaps in the first half and did not present enough offensive challenges for keeper David Ousted.
The opening twenty minutes were indicative of the remainder of the opening forty-five. Neither side looked at all interested in scoring a goal or getting up field to create a chance to score a goal. Defensive-minded Colorado was content to sit back and park a yellow and blue kit clad bus. While Vancouver had 57% possession they did not do enough with the ball. Each team managed a one shot on target.
The first half was a much ado about nothing and nothing comparative to champagne football.
The Second Half
Carl Robinson had to make an unexpected substitution before the second half kicked off. Whitecaps skipper Pedro Morales was forced to depart the match with a tight right hamstring. Morales had been grabbing at his hamstring towards the closing moments of the first half. Kianz Froese replaced Morales in the midfield.
Following the match an update was provided on the health of Morales.
“He has an ice pack on his hamstring. He had a little bit of tightness. He had it in the two days leading up to the game. We have five players missing so I wanted him to play and he wanted to play. Some of his passing in the first half was excellent. He went for a tackle and I think it tightened up a little bit. There was no risk being taken by me. My decision to bring him off at halftime and get Kianz Froese on went well."
The Colorado Rapids created some unnecessary confusion in their own box in the 56' minute. With the Whitecaps buzzing Kekuta Manneh had a shot attempt on target that narrowly missed the frame and caused the crowd to momentarily get excited.
Looking to up the tempo on the road. Rapids designated striker, Kevin Doyle entered the match in the 58' minute for Gabriel Torres. The Irish international flew in from Dublin, Ireland late on Tuesday night. Doyle remained on the bench for both of Ireland's Euro 2016 qualifying matches, away to Gibraltar and home to Georgia on Monday night.
Just when the match appeared to be headed to a scoreless stalemate. The Whitecaps came up with a play of brilliance on a sleeping back-four defensive unit for Colorado in the 73'. Cristian Techera played a lovely ball over the top to an unguarded Octavio Rivero. The Whitecaps top goal poacher timed his jump perfectly headed home the ball into the corner of the Rapids net. Techera described his good friends goal.
"Octavio and I get along pretty well. We’re both Uruguayan, so it’s nice we have that same understanding. I just saw him run and was able to pick him out. We know that he is pretty strong in the air and he finished off the chance. For the second chance, it was a ball that was right in front of me so I just had to put it in the back of the net. There wasn’t really too much thought behind that."
The opening goal appeared to Vancouver confidence because the momentum built kept rising and soon after the Whitecaps added to their lead. Another poor defensive effort from the Rapids back-line resulted in a Whitecaps goal. Kekuta Manneh sent in a cross that should have been cleared by Sean St Ledger. However, the Rapids defender was not able to clear the ball. Cristian Techera pounced and buried the ball point-blank behind a helpless Clint Irwin in the 77' minute.
If you give a quality football team enough chances to score eventually they are going to convert their opportunities. After a beleaguered and slow first half only one side woke up and played football. The Whitecaps showed why they are at the top of the table in Major League Soccer this season. After Pedro Morales departed, Rivero and Techera provided a terrific Uruguayan punch to the Rapids gut.
Man of the Match
El Bicho, Cristian Techera was easily the standout player of the match. While many expected Pedro Morales to excel in an Andrea Pirlo like roll, he did not. Techera took control and seized his opportunities in the second half. His 4th MLS goal of the season was a display of determination as he fought off a defender and rifled home the ball. Techera has been a massive bright spot for the Whitecaps this season and he continues to show his worth in a crowded Vancouver midfield.
"The first half was really tight. A lot of the defenders were playing close to the ball. In the second half we came out, we grouped and we found some more spaces we felt weren’t there in the first half. We came out and we got the result that we needed."
Vancouver Whitecaps Starting XI: David Ousted; Steven Beitashour, Tim Parker, Pa-Modou Kah, Jordan Harvey; Pedro Morales(C) (Kianz Froese 46), Gershon Koffie, Cristian Techera, Mauro Rosales (Robert Earnshaw 90+2), Kekuta Manneh (Jordan Smith 80); Octavio Rivero. 4-2-3-1)
Colorado Rapids Starting XI:lint Irwin; James Riley, Bobby Burling, Sean St Ledger, Marc Burch; Lucas Pittinari (Dillon Powers 80), Sam Cronin(C); Nick LaBrocca (Vicente Sanchez 77), Marcelo Sarvas, Juan Ramirez; Gabriel Torres (Kevin Doyle 58). 4-2-3-1)
Notes: Whitecaps left-back Sam Adekugbe made his international debut for Canada in a 1-1 draw vs Belize on Tuesday night.