A first-half strike by Conor Casey and a second-half goal by substitute Scott Palguta gave the defending MLS Cup champions all three points on a stormy night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado, with the weekend result ending Colorado’s winless run in MLS at four games. Though ‘Budweiser Man of the Match’ Camilo replied with what was the best goal of the evening, the Blue and White’s quest to earn a first away win in MLS continues, with Saturday’s defeat extending Vancouver’s losing streak in the league to four matches.
While the result was again disappointing, a young and eager-looking Whitecaps FC side showed many positive signs with their performance in the Colorado altitude. "We were still looking to stay high up the pitch," said Whitecaps FC head coach Tom Soehn. "We did that a few times, but unfortunately in the final third, we came up a bit short. But for the young group we had on the field, we got so many of our second guys out and they took credit for the work they put in and did a lot of what we talked about. I feel like we’re getting close and we’ve just got to keep plugging away. We hope we’ll get some guys back in the next stretch."
With some key players missing the Colorado trip through injury, Soehn looked to many of his younger players to put in a performance on the road. He was able to add some MLS experience in his backline by handing left fullback Jordan Harvey his Whitecaps FC debut against his former club after the defender joined Vancouver from Philadelphia Union on Thursday. His introduction moved Jonathan Leathers back to his usual position of right fullback, with Wes Knight making way. In midfield, MLS SuperDraft pick Michael Nanchoff earned his first start in the league after making three substitute appearances this season.
Saturday’s match took time to warm up in many instances, and there could be some argument that Whitecaps FC looked the better side for large periods of the match. Yet, as in so many cases in soccer, it is what a team does on the scoresheet that is usually looked at more than how they performed to achieve that result. It summed up Colorado’s display, as they found a way to secure the home win, even though it was not their best performance.
Other than Colorado’s goal, the first half was a relatively subdued affair, with Vancouver looking comfortable in the early stages, but the Rapids growing into the match by the break. Chances were limited in the opening exchanges, with ‘Caps midfielder Gershon Koffie attempting again to beat an MLS goalkeeper from distance, but his third-minute effort did not get the better of Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens. Colorado’s reply came seven minutes later, as a Jeff Larentowicz shot was easily saved by ‘Caps shot-stopper Joe Cannon.
In fact, there was little suggestion that the opening goal was to arrive when it did from Colorado on 25 minutes. Scottish midfielder Jamie Smith did well to pick out an unmarked Casey in the Whitecaps FC box with a well-measured cross. The big Rapids striker took a touch before beating a sprawling Cannon with a tight-angled strike to make it 1-0 to the home side. It was Casey’s sixth goal of the season.
The goal was a surprising turn of events to what was an even and largely uneventful game to that stage, but with the Rapids taking the advantage, Vancouver’s response was immediate. Youngster Omar Salgado was unlucky not to hit the target with a fierce left-footed strike on 26 minutes, while Camilo had two opportunities five minutes later. The Brazilian attacker forced a diving save from Pickens with his first shot before putting the rebound over the Rapids crossbar.
The opening half ended with Colorado in the ascendancy, as they applied some good pressure on their Canadian visitors. The home side’s best opportunity came from a flowing Rapids move on 38 minutes. Casey and Omar Cummings combined for a neat give-and-go that freed Cummings in behind the Whitecaps FC backline. The Jamaican international teed up a fierce left-footed strike that flew just past the far post.
While stormy weather in and around Dick’s Sporting Goods Park delayed the start of the second half by 30 minutes, fans were treated to an improved contest after the restart, as chances were created at both ends. Whitecaps FC had a spark in the form of Nizar Khalfan, who tried his best to find an equalizer with three efforts towards goal early in the half.
The Rapids, meanwhile, maintained a threat to extend their lead with several attacking forays. The best of those chances came on 54 minutes when Casey was unable to finish from a tight angle after strike partner Caleb Folan knocked Kosuke Kimura’s cross into Casey’s path in Vancouver’s six-yard box.
Though they did not break through at that point, Colorado made sure of the points just moments after Harvey was issued the only yellow card of the match on 67 minutes. The booking was the defender’s fifth of the season, and therefore, suspends Whitecaps FC’s new acquisition for their next league match.
The yellow card was issued by match referee Alex Prus after he awarded Colorado a free kick in the Vancouver half. On 68 minutes, Smith took the set-piece and put another fine ball into the ‘Caps box, where Casey forced a good save from Cannon with his downward header. The rebound fell kindly to an unmarked Palguta, who easily converted for a 2-0 Rapids lead. It was the former Rochester Rhinos player’s second goal of the season.
Palguta’s goal gave Colorado control of the scoreline, but that did not stop Whitecaps FC’s young side from finding a way back into the match on 77 minutes. From an impressive attacking move, substitute Long Tan found Khalfan with a simple pass that allowed the East African to slip a superb through ball to Camilo in the Rapids box. With only Pickens to beat, the in-form South American rounded the Colorado keeper and slotted home his sixth goal of the season to cut the deficit to 2-1.
The Brazilian’s reply gave life to the visitors, as Whitecaps FC went in search of a very late equalizer on the road. However, it was Colorado that showed enough pedigree to see out the game and claim victory, despite four additional minutes of time added on at the end of the game.
Whitecaps FC will return home and prepare for another busy stretch of games, which include an MLS home match versus Real Salt Lake next Saturday afternoon and the international friendly versus English premier League giants Manchester City FC on the following Monday night, July 18. Colorado, meanwhile, travel to the Pacific Northwest to take on Seattle Sounders FC next Saturday.
25′ – COL – Conor Casey (Jamie Smith, Marvell Wynne)
68′ – COL – Scott Palguta
77′ – VAN – Camilo (Nizar Khalfan, Long Tan)
Shots: Vancouver 11 – Colorado 15
Shots on Goal: Vancouver 4 – Colorado 5
Saves: Vancouver 3 – Colorado 3
Fouls: Vancouver 12 – Colorado 12
Offsides: Vancouver 5 – Colorado 1
Corners: Vancouver 5 – Colorado 6
67′ – VAN – Jordan Harvey
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.Joe Cannon; 25.Jonathan Leathers, 2.Michael Boxall (14.Greg Janicki 57′), 4.Alain Rochat, 26.Jordan Harvey; 16.Nizar Khalfan, 33.Peter Vagenas (12.Jeb Brovsky 71′), 28.Gershon Koffie, 13.Michael Nanchoff; 37.Camilo, 17.Omar Salgado (23.Long Tan 45′)
Subs not used: 18.Jay Nolly, 3.Bilal Duckett, 7.Terry Dunfield, 8.Wes Knight
18.Matt Pickens; 2.Danny Earls (29.Scott Palguta 23′), 3.Drew Moor, 22.Marvell Wynne, 27.Kosuke Kimura; 15.Wells Thompson, 4.Jeff Larentowicz, 20.Jamie Smith; 14.Omar Cummings (23.Sanna Nyassi 81′), 21.Caleb Folan (11.Brian Mullan 65′), 9.Conor Casey
Subs not used: 31.Steward Ceus, 19.Andre Akpan, 5.Joseph Nane, 34.Tyrone Marshall
Budweiser Man of the Match: Camilo