Vancouver Whitecaps blank Toronto FC 1-0 in MLS season-opening winning tradition
Consistency is a wonderful thing. For the third year running in their Major League Soccer existence, the Vancouver Whitecaps kicked off their season with a win at home before a sellout crowd.
As with the inaugural year, FC Toronto was the victim, although this time the 1-0 loss was far less demoralizing for their eastern rivals than the 4-2 shredding they underwent in 2011.
A relatively uneventful first half saw both clubs tentatively testing each other, and their respective new signings, with neither goalkeeper, the ‘Caps’ Joe Cannon and Toronto’s Joe Bendik, having to exert themselves to any great extent.
Vancouver’s Gambian teenager, midfielder Kekuta Manneh--who played the first half before giving way to recent marquee signing Nigel Reo-Coker--displayed some excellent work just before halftime, putting a lovely ball through the box that neither Kenny Miller nor Darren Mattocks could quite get to.
A 10-minute burst of energy in the second half paid off for the Whitecaps when Gershon Koffie finished off a wonderful bit of teamwork for the game’s only goal. Veteran Vancouver defender Young-Pyo Lee, who gave the match his usual standout effort, worked a little give-and-go with Miller down the right side and crossed perfectly to Daigo Kobayashi. The new Japanese midfielder immediately passed back to Koffie, who gathered it in and confidently slotted it between Bendik and his left post at the 59-minute mark.
Vancouver substitute Erik Hurtado, who came in at the 76th minute for Kobayashi, made his presence known and made the most of his limited time up front, getting two nice, if unfruitful, chances in the last two minutes of regulation time (although the young American would have scored or at least forced Bendik into a great save if he had one-timed another great YP Lee pass).
With an aggressive second half, the 38-year-old Cannon showed he will give the decade-younger Brad Knighton a tussle for the starting spot between the posts. Although a bit sloppy with a clearance early in the game, he ranged confidently throughout his box later and pushed Toronto out of the play on several occasions while they, mostly ineffectively, pressed for the equalizer. Cannon finished up with only two saves, and his opposite number was tested just three times.
Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit fell after heading a clearance very early in the game and left, favouring his left leg (for an update, go here), to be replaced for the remainder by defender Brad Rusin in his first appearance as a Whitecap.
Reo-Coker didn’t disappoint, showing no lack of energy for a two-month layoff and distributing balls efficiently. The English Premier League veteran put Mattocks through with a nice pass, but Toronto defender Richard Eckersley got there in time to slide into the Jamaican speedster’s shot.
Attendance for the loud crowd at B.C. Place was announced at 21,000.