A sold-out crowd at BC Place witnessed a winning start for Vancouver Whitecaps FC as they beat Canadian rivals Toronto FC 1-0 to open the club’s third season in Major League Soccer.
A well-worked goal finished off by man of the match Gershon Koffie was the difference between the sides as the ‘Caps continued their streak of winning each of their first three MLS season openers at home.
Head coach Martin Rennie fielded a strong starting lineup with captain Jay DeMerit starting at centre back and goalkeeper Joe Cannon given the start in net. Rookie Kekuta Manneh and newcomer Daigo Kobayashi started on the wings with Kenny Miller just behind striker Darren Mattocks in a 4-2-3-1 formation, whilst Jun Marques Davidson got the nod alongside Koffie in the centre of the pitch.
Robert Earnshaw, making his debut for Toronto FC after joining the team on Friday, tried his luck in the fifth minute as he received the ball outside the area but his low shot was comfortably saved by Cannon. In the build up to the chance, captain DeMerit landed awkwardly whilst heading the ball clear and was substituted for Brad Rusin, who was making his MLS debut for Whitecaps FC.
In the 18th minute, Toronto FC winger Reggie Lambe went down under a challenge from Whitecaps FC left back Alain Rochat to win his side a freekick in a dangerous position just outside the area. Earnshaw took the freekick but saw his effort sail harmlessly over the bar.
TFC created a chance on 40 minutes as a long, hopeful ball from Reds captain Darren O’Dea found Earnshaw deep in the Whitecaps FC half and clear on goal but a terrific recovering tackle from Rusin denied the Welshman a clear shot on goal.
As the first half neared it’s close, a nice one-two between Whitecaps FC speedsters Manneh and Mattocks saw Manneh one-on-one with a Toronto FC defender. The rookie winger turned the defender before firing a low shot that was well saved by Bendik as the teams went into the break scoreless at 0-0.
Looking for a spark, the ‘Caps made a halftime change that proved decisive as new signing Nigel Reo-Coker entered the action, coming on for Manneh as the team changed to a 4-3-3 formation with Miller and Kobayashi joining Mattocks up top.
“Nigel won a lot of balls that we weren’t winning in the first half,” said Rennie. “His way of passing forward was very good, creating some good chances, some good balls in the box. And generally, he’s got a presence and a swagger about him and rubs off on other people. You have to have that to be a good team.”
Minutes into the secon half Mattocks drew a foul from Toronto FC left back Ashtone Morgan in a dangerous area. The resulting free kick was curled to the back post by Rochat and was heading in until a last second intervention by Bendik who parried the ball tantalizingly close to Whitecaps FC defender Rusin’s lunge only to see the danger cleared by the visitors.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 59th minute as Whitecaps FC were rewarded for their positive start to the second period. Lee played a smart one-two with Miller before feeding the ball to Kobayashi on the edge of the area. The Japanese maestro then laid it off first time for the on-rushing Koffie and the fan favourite took one touch before firing a powerful shot past Bendik into the Toronto FC goal to give the ‘Caps a well-deserved 1-0 lead.
Toronto nearly replied instantly as Rochat conceded a corner in the 63rd minute. Bekker swung the ball deep into the area where Dunfield managed to find space for a free header but could only direct the ball well over the bar.
With two minutes to go in regular time, Reo-Coker laid it off to Lee who was closed down fast by a Toronto FC defender. The ball deflected to Hurtado who found himself in space in the area but the American saw his eventual shot blocked. From the following corner, Hurtado played another quick one-two with Mattocks before racing towards the area. He laid the ball of for the supporting Mattocks who also saw his shot blocked.
In the end, Whitecaps FC saw out a late surge from Toronto FC to record a winning start to the new season with a final score of 1-0. Goalscorer Koffie received the Budweiser Man of the Match award for his efforts.
Next up for Whitecaps FC is another home fixture on March 9 as they take on Columbus Crew at BC Place. Kickoff is at 4:30 p.m. PT.
Budweiser Man of the Match: Gershon Koffie
Referee: Juan Guzman
59′ – VAN – Gershon Koffie (Daigo Kobayashi, Young-Pyo Lee)
Shots: Vancouver 13 – Toronto 9
Shots on Goal: Vancouver 3 – Toronto 2
Saves: Vancouver 2 – Toronto 2
Fouls: Vancouver 10 – Toronto 10
Offsides: Vancouver 1 – Toronto 1
Corners: Vancouver 8 – Toronto 3
27′ – TOR – Terry Dunfield
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.Joe Cannon; 12.Young-Pyo Lee, 6.Jay DeMerit (3.Brad Rusin 7′), 40.Andy O’Brien, 4.Alain Rochat; 27.Jun Marques Davidson, 28.Gershon Koffie, 14.Daigo Kobayashi (19.Erik Hurtado 76′), 23.Kekuta Manneh (13.Nigel Reo-Coker 45′), 9.Kenny Miller; 11.Darren Mattocks
Substitutes not used:
2.Jordan Harvey, 26.Corey Hertzog, 7.Camilo Da Silva Sanvezzo, 18.Brad Knighton
12.Joe Bendik; 27.Richard Eckersley, 5.Ashtone Morgan, 3.Danny Califf, 48.Darren O’Dea; 25.Jeremy Hall, 31.Hogan Ephraim, 23.Terry Dunfield (28.Taylor Morgan 75′), 19.Reggie Lambe; 8.Kyle Bekker, 10.Robert Earnshaw (9.Emery Welshman 85′)
Subsitutes not used:
6.Gale Agbossoumonde, 21.Jonathan Osorio, 16.Darel Russell, 32.Andrew Weideman, 40.Quillan Roberts