by Farhan Devji
March 30, 2014, VANCOUVER, BC (ISN) – Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2W-0L-2D) extended their undefeated start to the 2014 season with a 2-1 win over Houston Dynamo (2W-1L-0D) Saturday afternoon in front of a sold-out crowd at BC Place.
Scottish striker Kenny Miller scored his team-leading third goal of the season and defender Jordan Harveyscored his first as the ‘Caps handed Houston their first defeat of 2014.
The match also saw Whitecaps FC defender Andy O’Brien pick up his first point in Major League Soccer – an assist on Harvey’s first-half marker. Midfielder Pedro Morales earned the secondary assist on the play, his second in MLS, and was named the Budweiser Man of the Match in his first start at BC Place.
With the win, Whitecaps FC are now unbeaten in four matches to start the 2014 MLS season – and eight including preseason competition.
Head coach Carl Robinson made three changes to his starting lineup on Saturday, as well as a switch to a 4-4-2 diamond midfield formation, after last week’s scoreless draw with New England Revolution.
Midfielder Gershon Koffie made his first start of the season, replacing an injured Nigel Reo-Coker, and Morales made his first home start in place of Sebastian Fernandez. Captain Jay DeMerit also drew back into the squad, after sitting out last weekend’s match as a resting measure, in place of Johnny Leverón.
Once both teams settled into the match, Vancouver began to take control around the 10-minute mark and Morales was highly involved. Playing atop Vancouver’s diamond midfield, the Chilean attacking midfielder opened the game up with his vision and playmaking ability.
In the 12th minute, after some nice build-up in midfield, Morales sent a pinpoint ball over the top to Miller at the top left corner of the box. The Scotsman then played a left-footed cross into Darren Mattocks, who tipped it just over the goal.
Vancouver continued to play through Morales, whose passing looked crisp and effortless, and it paid off just a few minutes later.
This time, Morales whipped a dangerous curling ball into O’Brien at the far post. The 6-foot-3 centre back then headed the ball back down to Harvey, who poked it past Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall to give the ‘Caps a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute.
Houston’s best first-half chance came moments later, when fullback Kofi Sarkodie found striker Giles Barnes unmarked in the box with a cross from the right corner. But fortunately for the Blue and White, Barnes sent his header wide of the goal.
Whitecaps FC took a comfortable 1-0 lead into the half, after controlling 52 per cent of possession and recording a passing accuracy percentage of 83 per cent in the first 45 minutes.
To their credit, the visiting Dynamo came out of the interval with some renewed enthusiasm. The Texas outfit played on the front foot in the opening 10 minutes and had a pair of half chances from Barnes and Brad Davis, but a save from David Ousted and sliding tackle from DeMerit kept the ‘Caps ahead.
Then, in the 58th minute, Vancouver doubled their lead on a penalty from Miller. In the build-up, Teibert played a great ball down the left to Mattocks, who beat two defenders before the ball clipped the arm of a sprawling Sarkodie.
After his first attempt from the spot was called back due to encroachment into the box, Miller slotted his second into the bottom right corner of the net to give Vancouver a 2-0 advantage.
Houston spoiled Ousted’s shutout bid late, as Ricardo Clark headed in a Brad Davis free kick in the 75th minute, but the ‘Caps held on for their second win of the season.
The ‘Caps have outscored their opponents by a 7-3 margin this season and currently sit second in the Western Conference table with eight points – pending the remainder of this weekend’s results.
Stat of the Game
Morales led Whitecaps FC with 45 successful passes on Saturday – 33 of which came in the attacking half. Also of note, the Chilean sent 14 of his passes into the final third.
Quote of the Game
Robinson on Morales: “He’s a joy to watch, isn’t he? And I think he’s a joy to play with as well, listening to the guys in there. He makes players around him better. And that’s certainly what he did today.”
Budweiser Man of the Match: Pedro Morales
Referee: Kevin Stott
14′ – VAN – Jordan Harvey (Andy O’Brien, Pedro Morales)
58′ – VAN – Kenny Miller (penalty kick)
75′ – HOU – Ricardo Clark (Brad Davis)
Shots: Vancouver 13 – Houston 13
Shots on Goal: Vancouver 5 – Houston 5
Saves: Vancouver 4 – Houston 3
Fouls: Vancouver 10 – Houston 15
Offsides: Vancouver 1 – Houston 2
Corners: Vancouver 2 – Houston 9
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.David Ousted; 33.Steven Beitashour, 40.Andy O’Brien, 6.Jay DeMerit, 2.Jordan Harvey; 28.Gershon Koffie (23.Kekuta Manneh 76′), 15.Matías Laba, 77.Pedro Morales (29.Nicolás Mezquida 87`), 31.Russell Teibert; 11.Darren Mattocks (7.Sebastián Fernández 65′), 9.Kenny Miller
Substitutes not used
70.Paolo Tornaghi, 16.Johnny Leverón, 19.Erik Hurtado, 36.Bryce Alderson
1.Tally Hall; 8.Kofi Sarkodie, 18.David Horst, 4.Jermaine Taylor (22.Brian Ownby 77`), 26.Corey Ashe; 20.Andrew Driver (15.Mark Sherrod 86`), 13.Ricardo Clark, 11.Brad Davis, 27.Boniek Garcia (7.Omar Cummings 71′); 23.Giles Barnes, 12.Will Bruin
Substitutes not used
24.Tyler Deric, 5.Warren Creavalle, 16.A.J. Cochran, 17.Servando Carrasco
Next up for Whitecaps FC is a meeting with Western Conference rival Colorado Rapids next Saturday at BC Place. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. PT.