This was a point on the road against a tough opponent. Make no mistake, it was a job well done. We came back twice, the second time while a man down, and looked the more dangerous side for most of this match. The situation was not helped by some sophomoric officiating decisions particularly with regard to the shameless conduct of Camilo, who flung himself to the turf at the slightest provocation. This latter issue was especially annoying because Camilo has the skills to succeed without the theatrics, but chooses to employ them anyway. If you want a good example of why a lot of people don’t take this game seriously, look at Camilo’s performance in minute 25. Bumped by Danso, he leaps into the air and the writhes around on the turf for two minutes. The trainer comes out. Camilo is in agony. Perhaps 999 will need to be called. And then Hosanna! He’s back on his feet and ready to go. It must have been the magic sponge.
Much of the story of this match (aside from the matters griped about above) was the high line that Vancouver played, which made it difficult for us to move the ball forward and get into our system. The result was that all too often we played long ball, which really isn’t our game. Yeah, I know we scored the tying goal that way, but success is built on correct application of the system rather than hoping for moments of individual brilliance (much as it is beautiful when they occur).
1. Donovan Ricketts: He was beaten by a very well taken free kick for the first goal. It looked to me that he was unsighted on the second, and in any case there were at least two other guys much more proximate to the source of the problem who should have closed it down in the first place. Good positioning and distribution in relatively limited action. 6
5. Michael Harrington: One of the most important changes for the Whitecaps in recent matches has been the emergence of Russell Teibert as an attacking presence on the right side. The need to track him absorbed a lot of Harrington’s attention during this match, and while he mostly kept the young Canadian out of the action, the job was done at the expense of a good deal of Harrington’s usual attacking contributions. 6
98. Futty Danso: A pretty uneventful match for Futty. Except for the shout for handball early in the match (which would have been harsh if it had been given), and for getting sent off (which was a ridiculous decision). I’ve watched the relevant passage of play a dozen times now and I am convinced that my assessment of the play when it happened was correct: Camilo initiated the contact and then crumpled up like a gum wrapper. The ref was in no position to make the call and I suspect that he just blew his whistle because he assumed something had happened. I guess we’ll get to find out just what Pah-Modou Kah brings to the table somewhat sooner than we expected. 6
35. Andrew Jean Baptiste: AJB coped as well as anyone with the fact that Vancouver wanted to get right up in our collective grille. He seems to be getting more comfortable with moving the ball forward on his own and passing positively. 6
13. Jack Jewsbury: Stalwart in defense and actually got forward a few times. He did a good job of keeping a lid on Hurtado is faster now than Jewsbury was on the best day of his life (which was several years ago). He used his smarts and his instinct for proper positioning, and got the job done. 6.5
4. Will Johnson: Watch the “foul” that resulted in the free kick on which the first goal was scored. What you will see is Camilo leaping off his feet at the first hint of contact. I give him credit. He played an inexperienced official and got a result. There really wasn’t much that Johnson could do if that sort of thing was going to be given as a free kick. His blast from the right side was blocked by Andy O’Brien’s arm and Johnson duly potted the resulting penalty. On the down side (and this is why his rating isn’t higher) I think he was culpable for the Koffie goal. As Camilo (for once staying on his feet) battled with AJB, both Danso and Johnson dropped to cover a possible cross to the onrushing Reo-Coker. This left Koffie free to receive the ball on his run to the D and take a free shot before either Danso or Johnson could move out to shut it down. If Johnson had held his ground and trusted Danso to prevent the cross (which Harrington probably had covered in any case) he would have been considerably closer to Koffie when the latter took his shot. It was a small error in a play that developed very quickly, but it highlights the fact that we still have a ways to go in terms of defensive organization. 6
8. Diego Valeri: This was an off night for him, or at least so it seemed from my vantage point. He did the things he normally does: driving the ball forward and looking to pick out a pass, but his efforts lacked their usual precision. It didn’t help that, all too often we were out of system; hoofing the ball up the pitch instead of working it forward on the floor. Vancouver’s high line disrupted our ability to get the ball to Valeri when and where he wanted it, but his play with the ball was also not quite at his usual level. 5.5
21. Diego Chará: Chará was matched up on Reo-Coker for most of the night and the two battled like gladiators for the full 90, no quarter asked, none given. Chará’s game has changed subtly over the last few weeks. He is ever more involved in the attack and has shown increasing aptitude for driving the ball forward and finding a pass. All the while, Chará looks after his defensive responsibilities and wreaks havoc in the middle of the park. 7
6. Darlington Nagbe: Mobile and effective while he was on the pitch, he looked good until he was injured in the 33rd minute. When he went down it looked like something to do with his leg, but he came off the pitch with the look of a man in some other kind of distress. No news yet on his condition, but it wouldn’t be a very good start to this long stretch on the road if he were not able to go. 5
9. Ryan Johnson: Of late, Johnson has had a tendency to float out to the flanks, especially on the left side. Opposing teams probably love this, because Johnson is a guy whose effectiveness declines precipitously the further he gets from the center of the box. He had some good moments, and probably should have gotten more calls than he did, but his overall performance was not as strong as it might have been. 5
22. Rodney Wallace: He might well have scored from the doorstep in the 14th minute but he whiffed on the shot. For the balance of the match he showed why it is that he has earned a starting spot. He slashed to the middle from both flanks and put himself in dangerous attacking positions. That his efforts were not rewarded (and this might hold for Ryan Johnson as well) has as much to do with the difficulties that Valeri had in making the connections as anything else. 7
11. Kalif Alhassan: He came on, not as he usually does as a change of pace for Wallace, but in relief of the crocked Nagbe. He did reasonably well, but looked a step slow. His tendency to sit on the ball too long persists. On the other hand, he ended up playing what amounted to right back for the last ten minutes of the match and got the job done. 6
10. Frederic Piquionne: In his more accustomed role he was pretty good. He held the ball up well, but for my money he frequently sat on it a bit too long. Even when we play over the top we need to retain the idea of playing quickly and in rhythm when it comes down. Piquionne kept the Caps defenders on our left flank honest, but a bit more alacrity in terms of his play would have improved matters. 5
20. Adolfo Valencia: I’m going to give him Man of the Match. Normally I would give this award to someone who played more of the match than just the last 15 minutes or so, but in this case I think it’s warranted. He has been frozen out of the side pretty much all season. Subbed on for Jewsbury in an attempt to get a point out of this match, he did exactly what was required. The Vancouver faithful were convinced that he brought the ball down with his arms, but the Caps players on the scene weren’t calling for a handball. The goal itself was brilliant. After shrugging off Rusin and getting the ball to his feet, he lost O’Brien with a neat bit of foot skill and then calmly slotted it by Knighton. Without this bit of grace under pressure there is every likelihood that we leave B.C. Place with squat. Well played. 7.5
This was a tough fight, and well worth the point. Let me just say that I loved the fact that we had such excellent travelling support. This is a team unbeaten in ten, and that’s something that we can hold on to going forward.