The great April Fools Joke is an art form. Perhaps a lost one. It strikes a neat balance between the believable and the absurd, or else it is Onion-esque in its humourous ridiculousness. Recent years have seen some truly terrible attempts. No, you can’t just say “we’re pregnant,” or “we’re getting married,” and expect people to chortle when you reveal that you were only toying with their emotions. Too believable, not absurd enough. Similarly, you can’t just throw anything out there. David Beckham, to cite one example, is not coming out of retirement, least of all to play for the Galaxy again. Too absurd, not believable enough. The Caps, it must be said, were leaning towards the latter when, shortly before 9pm, they tried to convince the 25,083 BC Place faithful that they had just beaten the LA Galaxy 4-2 on the strength of a Matías Laba brace.
The game started well enough, with Vancouver displaying a reasonable mix of their trademark hopeful long balls and some actual through balls on the ground. Putting Christian Bolaños in the middle of the park improved the Caps’ passing percentage to a reasonable 77%, though they still conceded the majority of the possession to LA. Then, in the 19th minute, route one soccer FINALLY paid off for Vancouver courtesy of a misplay by Galaxy keeper Clément Diop, when he bumbled a long pass from Sheanon Williams to Cristian Techéra, allowing the diminutive winger to slot home from 20 yards.
Unfortunately that only seemed to fire up the Galaxy, who took only seven minutes to respond, and an additional four to take the lead. The first goal shows up as an own goal by David Ousted, but the fault must be placed on Jordan Harvey who got beat to the inside by Romain Alessandrini. The resulting shot was fired off the near post, past a sprawling Ousted, which then ricocheted off the back of the Dane and in. Alessandrini then got one of his own in the 30th minute, demonstrating for Vancouver the novel idea of a midfielder coming into the box late to receive a low cross.
Now, I feel like I need to say something that I omitted from previous game reports. The officiating prior to tonight’s game hasn’t been all that bad. There have been misses, there have been key decisions against the Whitecaps, but for a pleasant change, the officials weren’t particular factors in the first six matches of the season. Allen Chapman decided we’d had enough of that, and put PRO officiating back on everyone’s mind. Vancouver did not have the best of first halves, but they should have come out no worse than level, and possibly up a man. On two occasions, a Whitecaps attacker in prime scoring position was taken down in the area with no call from Chapman. The foul on Alphonso Davies was particularly egregious. Then, near the end of the half, Diop came out to challenge Erik Hurtado nearly 30 yards from goal, and slid right through him, injuring the Caps striker. It was worse than the play that saw Ousted sent off against San Jose, and drew not even a caution.
At the start of the second half, BC Place felt like a giant sigh. Results to date, and their history when trailing at the half, had given little reason to hope that the Whitecaps could turn the match around. Fredy Montéro was a halftime sub for the likely injured Hurtado, and for twenty minutes it looked like the pessimism was warranted. Then the newest Cap made his debut. In the 64th minute, Andrew Jacobson was replaced by Tony Tchani, and it was like a switch was flipped. Vancouver had a solid five minutes of possession in which Montéro capitalized on a rebound to equalize in the 66th minute and Matías Laba, apparently now freed somewhat to move up the pitch, took the lesson from Alessandrini’s goal, made himself available at the top of the box just one minute later, received a pass, and put the Whitecaps ahead from 16 yards.
The icing on the evening’s cake came in the 87th minute, when Laba, who it is said only passes backward and offers nothing going forward, Matias Laba, joined a counter-attack and nodded home his second of the game off a Montéro rebound to seal the deal.
No… seriously. 4-2 Vancouver, final score.
Goalkeeper: FOUR Pucks in the Head
Ousted didn’t have to be magnificent, just his usual solid self, and he was. Fumbled the first shot a bit, but the shot shouldn’t have been allowed to get through in the first place.
Defence: FOUR Pucks in the Head
Waston and Parker were great in the middle, being their old dominant selves in the air. Parker particularly impressed. Harvey should have done better on the first goal. Williams got caught upfield a few times. Could’ve been better.
Midfield: SIX Pucks in the Head
Techéra was outstanding. Davies was excellent. Laba scored a brace. The game changed when Tchani came in. Bolaños looked great in the middle, despite people’s concerns that he’s a winger and shouldn’t be played there, and he would have had a goal, but for a goal line clearance by Ashley Cole. The weakest link was Andrew Jacobson, who probably should have picked up Alessandrini for the second goal, but overall wasn’t THAT bad.
Forward: FIVE Pucks in the Head
Hurtado was lively and had his chances, though definitely squandered a couple of attacks, one quite badly. Montero didn’t look great until the team got organized behind him, then he was the poacher the Caps hoped he would be.