We at Pucked in the Head are proud supporters, not just of sports, but of sports coverage. As such, we’ve arranged to work with some up-and-coming talent out of programs at SFU and BCIT over the next few months. This Whitecaps FC game report comes to you from Jake Hall, a new addition to Pucked in the Head, who took our media seat at BC Place this afternoon. Welcome aboard, Jake!
I may or may not have added a few observations from the comfort of my own couch (hey, I would have been there but my daughter wasn’t feeling well!), but the heavy lifting was definitely done by young Mr Hall. Check out his game writeup after the jump.
March 9th, 2013 Vancouver Whitecaps vs Columbus Crew
On a gorgeous saturday evening, fans in Vancouver had the opportunity to watch two teams fresh off opening game victories. Both teams in fact had clean sheets to start the season, the Whitecaps defeating rival Toronto FC 1-0 and the Columbus Crew winning 3-0 against last year’s whipping boys, Chivas USA. This was also a chance for hometown Whitecaps fans to see who would slot in for injured captain and Team USA national Jay DeMerit, who suffered a season-ending achilles injury in the opening minutes of last week’s game. The 6ʼ4″, 210-pound Brad Rusin would have his hands full trying to stop the offensive onslaught of the gifted group of forwards the Crew put forth.
The Columbus Crew started at a rampant pace as striker Domonic Oduro almost found the back of the net on a quick shot from just outside the box less than two minutes into the game. However, Joe Cannon was ready for the challenge as he dove to his left to make a remarkable stop. In the 4th minute, Federico Higuain (the 650k transfer) had another opportunity that was tipped high by Cannon.
After a few tough minutes for the Whitecap defense it was time to get their offense on track. After receiving a great pass from Darren Mattocks, Daigo Kobayashi offered up a strike that fans in BC Place were buzzing about for the rest of the half. Playing in just his second MLS game, Kobayashi has shown his cerebral approach to the game multiple times. He slowly dribbled to the centre of the pitch, then spotted that Columbus keeper Andy Gruenebaum was cheating forward. He blasted a shot over and above Gruenebaum into the top left corner of the net to give the Caps an early 1-nil lead. This goal will surely go down as one of the best highlights from a young MLS season.
After the goal, the Caps continued to press, and dominated ball possession for most of the half. Kobayashi almost made another pretty play by setting up Kenny Miller. However, the goalkeeper kicked it away at the last minute. Another minute later, Miller had a clear step on his defender but was held. Glauber was given the game’s first yellow card. This was a continuing theme throughout the match, as Miller ran miles to pressure the Columbus defense time and time again.
This brings up a question: why, when Kobayashi had just demonstrated such precision from distance, did the Caps elect to have Alain Rochat boot ineffective free kicks throughout the first half? Rochat was wonderful in his defensive role tonight, but with the Whitecaps history of botching free kicks and corners, it would be nice to see a man like Kobayashi taking over those set pieces.
Back in the Caps end, Higuain nearly ties the game on a free kick in the 34th minute, but Joe Cannon was up to the task and suffocated the ball.
Four minutes later the Caps had an absolutely glorious chance as Kenny Millerʼs shot was rebounded onto the foot of Nigel Reo-Cooker. While R-C has a reputation for leading his teams into battle, and helping set the pace for games — as he most certainly did in last week’s second half against TFC — Reo-Cooker is not known for his goal-scoring prowess. He skied the ball over the wide open net, leaving the score at 1-0. On a subsequent corner, Rusin nearly had his first goal of the season, but his header went off the post, then off the goalkeeper’s face, and out of harm’s way.
The lead at the half could have been a much greater, as four clear opportunities were missed. Kenny Miller alone had two glorious chances with the ball on his foot within the six-yard box, but was unable to finish.
Off the opening kick of the second half, the Crew were up the pitch and Dominic Oduro was able to find an open Jairo Arrieta. The fleet-footed Costa Rican made no mistake on his shot from the box, making the score 1-1 in the 46th minute. Joe Cannon will definitely want this one back, as he had played a strong first half and just plain guessed incorrectly on the play. He went down for the cross-field shot, but Arrieta went for the near post. If Cannon stays on his feet, he’s in a much better position to make the stop no matter which direction Arrieta goes with the shot.
The Whitecaps looked a little stunned for a few minutes after the tying goal, and it took a Herculean effort to wake them up. Kenny Miller, using his great hustle, singlehandedly grabbed the lead for the Caps as he stole a ball from a sleeping defender and then buried the breakaway to make the game 2-1.
In the 79th minute it seemed as though the Whitecaps added another goal to make the game 3-1. Miller again broke in behind the defense, and slid the ball across the box to a streaking Erik Hurtado. The rookie buried the one-timer, but was called just offside to the chagrin of Whitecaps supporters.
In the 91st minute, Arrieta nearly cut through 3 whitecap defenders to tie the game but was bumped off the ball by Rusin just inside the box. The Crew lobbied for a late penalty, but the referee would have none of it. Final whistle, 2-1 Caps, and Vancouver opens the 2013 campaign with consecutive wins at BC Place.
Vancouverʼs next game is against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday the 23rd of March. The next home game is April 13 versus the
3 Stars (*Note that the official Man of the Match was named Daigo Kobayashi, for his wonderful first-half strike, but I have to agree with Jake on this one: Kenny Miller was just outstanding in this contest.)
1.) Kenny Miller – Miller, sporting the captain’s armband, played with fantastic effort and energy which directly resulted in the game-winning goal. His lacklustre play last season seems like a thing of the past as he has started the season on a good note.
2.) Daigo Kobayshi – Kobayshiʼs goal was a truly remarkable one, expertly placed into the top corner from 35 yards out. His strong defensive play was also evident, as he won battles for the ball and (with one or two early exceptions) avoided turnovers. He also set up many chances in the first which could have given the Caps a much stronger scoreline.
3.) Brad Rusin – Not a shabby performance for the young, hulking defender. While his presence in the game canʼt be measured in numbers and analytics, his presence in the back four was evident from the opening whistle to the final minute.